The influence of harmonic normal loads on sliding friction is investigated through analysis of contacts consisting of conical and spherical sliders of hard materials on softer metal surfaces. Friction for such contacts is assumed to result from a plowing component and a shearing component. Calculations and experiments show that the coefficient of friction is essentially independent of normal load for contacts with conical sliders. However, for spherical sliders the relation between the coefficient of friction and normal load is highly nonlinear. In the presence of harmonic variations in normal load, this non-linearity causes a shift in the average coefficient of friction. For ideal lubricated contacts, the shearing component of friction is very small and for this case, it is shown that the maximum average reduction in the coefficient of friction is ten percent. When the shearing component is more significant, as with dry contacts, the shift is less. For example, when the shear strength is one-sixth the hardness of the softer material, the maximum average reduction in the coefficient of friction is five percent.

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