Stable pushing: Mechanics, controllability, and planning

Kevin M. Lynch*, Matthew T. Mason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

354 Scopus citations


We would like to give robots the ability to position and orient parts in the plane by pushing, particularly when the parts are too large or heavy to be grasped and lifted. Unfortunately, the motion of a pushed object is generally unpredictable due to unknown support friction forces. With multiple pushing contact points, however, it is possible to find pushing directions that cause the object to remain fixed to the manipulator. These are called stable pushing directions. In this article we consider the problem of planning pushing paths using stable pushes. Pushing imposes a set of nonholonomic velocity constraints on the motion of the object, and we study the issues of local and global controllability during pushing with point contact or stable line contact. We describe a planner for finding stable pushing paths among obstacles, and the planner is demonstrated on several manipulation tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-556
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation


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