In this paper, we study the steady-state rolling contact of a linear viscoelastic layer of finite thickness and a rigid indenter made of a periodic array of equally spaced rigid cylinders. The viscoelastic contact model is derived by means of Green’s function approach, which allows solving the contact problem with the sliding velocity as a control parameter. The contact problem is solved by means of an accurate numerical procedure developed for general two-dimensional contact geometries. The effect of geometrical quantities (layer thickness, cylinders radii, and cylinders spacing), material properties (viscoelastic moduli, relaxation time) and operative conditions (load, velocity) are all investigated. Physical quantities typical of contact problems (contact areas, deformed profiles, etc.) are calculated and discussed. Special emphasis is dedicated to the viscoelastic friction force coefficient and to the energy dissipated per unit time. The discussion is focused on the role played by the deformation localized at the contact spots and the one in the bulk of the thin layer, due to layer bending. The model is proposed as an accurate solution for engineering applications such as belt conveyors, in which the energy dissipated on the rolling contact of idle rollers can, in some cases, be by far the most important contribution to their energy consumption.
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