Finite element simulation of conical indentation of a wide variety of elastic-plastic materials has been used to investigate the influences of pileup on the accuracy with which hardness and elastic modulus can be measured by load and depth-sensing indentation techniques. The key parameter in the investigation is the contact area, which can be determined from the finite element results either by applying standard analysis procedures to the simulated indentation load-displacement data, as would be done in an experiment, or more directly, by examination of the contact profiles in the finite element mesh. Depending on the pileup behavior of the material, these two areas may be very different. When pileup is large, the areas deduced from analyses of the load-displacement curves underestimate the true contact areas by as much as 60%. This, in turn, leads to overestimations of the hardness and elastic modulus. The conditions under which the errors are significant are identified, and it is shown how parameters measured from the indentation load-displacement data can be used to identify when pileup is an important factor.
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