Three-dimensional flat shell-to-shell coupling: numerical challenges
The node-to-surface formulation is widely used in contact simulations with finite elements because it is relatively easy to implement using different types of element discretizations. This approach, however, has a number of well-known drawbacks, including locking due to over-constraint when this formulation is used as a twopass method. Most studies on the node-to-surface contact formulation, however, have been conducted using solid elements and little has been done to investigate the effectiveness of this approach for beam or shell elements. In this paper we show that locking can also be observed with the node-to-surface contact formulation when applied to plate and flat shell elements even with a singlepass implementation with distinct master/slave designations, which is the standard solution to locking with solid elements. In our study, we use the quadrilateral four node flat shell element for thin (Kirchhoff-Love) plate and thick (Reissner-Mindlin) plate theory, both in their standard forms and with improved formulations such as the linked interpolation  and the Discrete Kirchhoff  elements for thick and thin plates, respectively. The Lagrange multiplier method is used to enforce the node-to-surface constraints for all elements. The results show clear locking when compared to those obtained using a conforming mesh configuration.