During the passage of a debris particle through an EHD contact, mechanical stresses due to particle compression and thermal stresses due to particle frictional heating produce a thermoelastic/plastic stress field, which governs the way a possible damage is generated. In the present paper, the complete three-dimensional solution of the thermoelastic distortion of surfaces due to the compression of a soft, ductile debris particle in an EHD line contact is presented both theoretically and through a realistic example. It is found that thermal stresses increase the likelihood of yielding and produce a characteristic “omega” shaped thermoelastic displacement. The important outcome of this work is the construction of a map which shows the critical particle size to cause damage (plastic deformations) in combination with operational parameters as the lubricant film thickness and relative sliding velocity of the contact.

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