Abrasive wear is a cutting process. This may seem counter-intuitive since most perceptions of cutting require a tool, such as a scissors, chisel, or machine tool. Abrasive wear, however, is cutting on a microscopic scale. The “tool” is either contaminant particles from an outside source, or a mating component.
Wear of mining or excavation machinery shovels and buckets from ore, rock or gravel is an example of Two-Body Abrasive Wear – the two bodies being the shovel and the geological material.
Hard contaminant particles between two sliding or rolling components produces Three-Body Abrasive Wear – the three bodies being each of the two sliding or rolling components, and the hard particles. Typical examples of Three Body Abrasive Wear are bearings, bushings or pistons which have been contaminated by sand, corrosion product (rust particles), or wear particles resulting from small fractures in these components. Hard particles can also originate from within one or both of the components in the form of carbides in their microstructure, or glass reinforcing fibers in plastics. Three Body Abrasive Wear typically accelerates rapidly since more particles are generated from the sliding or rolling components which are additive to the outside contaminant particles.