In this paper we develop an analytical set of equations to describe the motion of discrete dynamical systems subjected to holonomic and/or nonholonomic Pfaffian equality constraints. These equations are obtained by using Gauss’s Principle to recast the problem of the constrained motion of dynamical systems in the form of a quadratic programming problem. The closed-form solution to this programming problem then explicitly yields the equations that describe the time evolution of constrained linear and nonlinear mechanical systems. The direct approach used here does not require the use of any Lagrange multipliers, and the resulting equations are expressed in terms of two different classes of generalized inverses—the first class pertinent to the constraints, the second to the dynamics of the motion. These equations can be numerically solved using any of the standard numerical techniques for solving differential equations. A closed-form analytical expression for the constraint forces required for a given mechanical system to satisfy a specific set of nonholonomic constraints is also provided. An example dealing with the position tracking control of a nonlinear system shows the power of the analytical results and provides new insights into application areas such as robotics, and the control of structural and mechanical systems.

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