The rate of a desired push can be within a few milliseconds, to much longer times, depending on the need. The pistons can be designed to lock out once fired or be allowed to bounce back after performing the work. A Piston Actuator retains all explosive hot gasses with the use of various elastomeric seals. An electric piston actuator can be actuated by an electrical explosive device, however pyrotechnic actuators may also be actuated with a pressure cartridge, mechanical primer initiated device (gas generator), linear detonation transfer line (SMDC, FCDC, ETL, RDC) or a laser actuated ordnance device (laser initiated squib or detonator).
The gas energy from any of these devices expands rapidly in a confined space resulting in a volume change which drives the piston inside the actuator outwardly. Extension length of the piston is controlled by the envelope of the body and work needing to be performed. The pins extract rapidly in most applications creating a mechanical shock when the piston reaches full stroke. Dampeners can be installed into the Piston Actuators when lower mechanical shock is needed. In many applications, the shock of other devices being released is as great as or greater than that generated by Piston Actuator actuation.
Pyrotechnic thrusters are another form of a pyrotechnic piston actuator. They are often not called a piston actuator or pin pusher because they generally perform a more controlled amount of work. The end of the piston is usually attached to the system requiring movement from point A to B. The rate of movement and measured force of the movement is controlled as to not actuate with too much or too little energy. The timing of the piston movement can be controlled as needed for these thrusters.