A hallmark of multibody dynamics is that most formulations involve a number of constraints. Typically, when redundant generalized coordinates are used, equations of motion are simpler to derive but constraint equations are present. While the dynamic behavior of constrained systems is well understood, the numerical solution of the resulting equations, potentially of differential-algebraic nature, remains problematic. Many different approaches have been proposed over the years, all presenting advantages and drawbacks: the sheer number and variety of methods that have been proposed indicate the difficulty of the problem. A cursory survey of the literature reveals that the various methods fall within broad categories sharing common theoretical foundations. This paper summarizes the theoretical foundations to the enforcement in constraints in multibody dynamics problems. Next, methods based on the use of Lagrange’s equation of the first kind, which are index-3 differential algebraic equations are reviewed. Methods leading to a minimum set of equations are discussed; in view of the numerical difficulties associated with index-3 approaches, reduction to a minimum set is often performed, leading to a number of practical algorithms using methods developed for ordinary differential equations. Finally, alternative approaches to dealing with high index differential algebraic equations, based on index reduction techniques, are reviewed and discussed. Constraint violation stabilization techniques that have been developed to control constraint drift are also reviewed. These techniques are used in conjunction with algorithms that do not exactly enforce the constraints. Control theory forms the basis for a number of these methods. Penalty based techniques have also been developed, but the augmented Lagrangian formulation presents a more solid theoretical foundation. In contrast to constraint violation stabilization techniques, constraint violation elimination techniques enforce exact satisfaction of the constraints, at least to machine accuracy. Finally, as the finite element method has gained popularity for the solution of multibody systems, new techniques for the enforcement of constraints has been developed in that framework. The goal of this paper is to review the features of these methods, assess their accuracy and efficiency, underline the relationship among the methods, and recommend approaches that seem to perform better than others.

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