Updated: Sep 12, 2021
In this post I have explained about the element types used in an ABAQUS model.
Two types of three-dimensional conventional shell elements are provided in ABAQUS/Standard: ones that use five degrees of freedom (three displacement components and two in-surface rotation components) where possible and ones that use six degrees of freedom (three displacement components and three rotation components) at all nodes.
The elements that use five degrees of freedom (S4R5, STRI65, S8R5, S9R5) can be more economical. However, they are available only as “thin” shells (they cannot be used as “thick” shells) and cannot be used for finite-strain applications (although they model large rotations with small strains accurately).
Many shell element types in ABAQUS use reduced (lower-order) integration to form the element stiffness. The mass matrix and distributed loadings are still integrated exactly. Reduced integration usually provides more accurate results (provided the elements are not distorted or loaded in in-plane bending) and significantly reduces running time, especially in three dimensions.
When reduced integration is used with first-order (linear) elements, hourglass control is required. Therefore, when using first-order reduced-integration elements, you must check if hourglassing is occurring; if it is, a finer mesh may be required or concentrated loads must be distributed over multiple nodes. The second-order reduced-integration elements available in ABAQUS/Standard generally do not have the same difficulty and are recommended in cases when the solution is expected to be smooth. First-order elements are recommended when large strains or very high strain gradients are expected.