Abstract This paper addresses the problem of position control for robot manipulators. A new polynomial family of PD-type controllers with gravity compensation for the global position of robots manipulators is presented. The previous results on the linear PD controller are extended to the proposed polynomial family. The classical PD controller can be found among this large class of controllers when its proportional gain is a diagonal matrix. The main contribution of this paper is to prove that the closed-loop system composed by full nonlinear robot dynamics and the proposed family of controllers is globally asymptotically stable in agreement with Lyapunov's direct method and LaSalle's invariance principle. Besides the theoretical results, a real-time experimental comparison is also presented to illustrate the performance of the proposed family with other well-known control algorithms such as PD and PID schemes on a three degrees of freedom direct-drive arm.