A variational-vector calculus approach is presented to define virtual displacements and rotations and position, velocity, and acceleration of individual components of a multibody mechanical system. A two-body subsystem with both Cartesian and relative coordinates is used to illustrate a systematic method of exploiting the linear structure of both vector and differential calculus, in conjunction with a variational formulation of the equations of motion of rigid bodies, to derive the matrix structure of governing multibody system equations of motion. A pattern for construction of the system mass matrix and generalized force terms is developed and applied to derivation of the equations of motion of a vehicle system. The development demonstrates an approach to multibody machine dynamics that closely parallels methods used in finite-element structural analysis.

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