A new method is developed to study the contact problem in cracks subjected to a strong gradient in the surface direction of the crack, with compressive loads acting on part of it. The approach is based in geometrical considerations and uses the Weight Function method to obtain the effective crack length and mode I crack tip stress intensity factor. The method is illustrated for an infinite cracked plate with linear and quadratic distributions of a monotonically increasing load. Excellent agreement between analytical and numerical (FEM) results obtained. Possible applications in three-dimensional cracks are also discussed. © 1994.
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