Skip to Main Content
Rolling a ball on a plane is a standard example of nonholonomy reported in many textbooks, and the problem is also well understood for any smooth deformation of the surfaces. For nonsmoothly deformed surfaces, however, much less is known. Although it may seem intuitive that nonholonomy is conserved (think e.g. to polyhedral approximations of smooth surfaces), current definitions of "nonholonomy" are inherently referred to systems described by ordinary differential equations, and are thus inapplicable to such systems. In this paper, we study the set of positions and orientations that a polyhedral part can reach by rolling on a plane through sequences of adjacent faces. We provide a description of such reachable set, discuss conditions under which the set is dense, or discrete, or has a compound structure, and provide a method for steering the system to a desired reachable configuration, robustly with respect to model uncertainties. Based on ideas and concepts encountered in this case study, and in some other examples we provide, we turn back to the most general aspects of the problem and investigate the possible generalization of the notion of (kinematic) nonholonomy to nonsmooth, discrete, and hybrid dynamical systems. To capture the essence of phenomena commonly regarded as "nonholonomic," at least two irreducible concepts are to be defined, of "internal" and "external" nonholonomy, which may coexist in the same system. These definitions are instantiated by examples.
Date of Publication: May 2004