In this study, a new approach has been developed to simulate three-dimensional (3D) experimental rolling contact fatigue (RCF) spalls using a two-dimensional (2D) finite element (FE) model. The model introduces a novel concept of dividing the 3D Hertzian pressure profile into 2D sections and utilizing them in a 2D continuum damage mechanics (CDM) RCF model. The distance between the two sections was determined by the size of the grains in the material microstructure. The 2D RCF model simulates characteristics of case carburized steels by incorporating hardness gradient and residual stress (RS) distribution with depth. The model also accounts for the topological randomness in the material microstructure using Voronoi tessellation. In order to define the failure criterion for the current model, sub-surface stress analysis was conducted for the Hertzian elliptical contact. It was predicted that the high shear stress region near the end of the major axis of the contact is the cause of catastrophic damage and spall formation. This prediction was validated by analyzing the spalls observed during RCF experiments using a surface profilometer. The model was implemented to predict RCF lives for 33 random material domains for different contact geometry and maximum Hertzian pressures. The model results were then compared to the RCF experiments conducted on two different test rigs, a three-ball-on-rod and a thrust bearing test apparatus (TBTA). It was found that the RCF lives obtained from the model are in good agreement with the experimental results. The results also demonstrated that the spalls generated using the analytical results resemble the spalls observed in experiments.

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