The elastic-plastic contact problem of a layered half-space indented by a rigid surface is solved with the finite element method. The case of a layer stiffer and harder than the substrate is analyzed and solutions for the contact pressure, subsurface stresses and strains, and location, shape, and growth of the plastic zone are presented for various layer thicknesses and indentation depths. Finite element results for a halfspace having the substrate properties are also given for comparison purposes. Differences between the elastic and elastic-plastic solutions are discussed and the significance of critical parameters such as the layer thickness, mechanical properties of layer and substrate materials, indentation depth, and interfacial friction on the threshold of plasticity, contact pressure distribution, and growth of the plastic zone are examined. Additionally, the mechanisms of layer decohesion and subsurface crack initiation are interpreted in light of the results obtained in this study.

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