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The mechanism of contact fatigue can be understood in terms of several sources of stress concentration, or stress raisers, within the macroscopic Hertzian stress field. This article focuses primarily on rolling contact fatigue of hardened bearing steels. It discusses Hertzian shear stresses at and below the contact surfaces and briefly summarizes bearings and gear characteristics. The article provides an overview of the key types of gear and bearing steels. It analyzes two types of macropitting that result from the subsurface growth of fatigue cracks, namely, subsurface-origin macropitting and surface-origin macropitting. The article describes the factors influencing contact fatigue life of hardened steel bearings and gears, including hardness, inclusions, carbides, and residual stresses.

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