In this first part of a two-part paper, a mathematical model is presented for the prediction of spalling fatigue life in rolling bearings, which operate in contaminated lubricant, resulting in denting damage of the rolling surfaces. Five damage accumulation cases are treated: (I) Early or pre-existing damage; (II) Linear damage accumulation from constant lubricant contamination; (III) Accelerating damage from progressive wear; (IV) A combination of the above; and (V) Damage leveling off during stress cycling. Cases (I)-(III) lead to Weibull distributions of fatigue life, the others to more complex distributions. Experimental corroboration and application examples of the model are presented in Part II [16] of this paper.

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