What Are Pyrotechnic Cutters?
What Are Pyrotechnic Cutters?

Pyrotechnic cutters are devices that have a simple mechanism for action but are important tools used to push the limits of mechanical and technological advancements. Used in a variety of fashions, these cutters are also notable for their remarkable toughness. Networks Electronic Company, a manufacturer of pyrotechnic cutters, has helped explain some of the specifics of what these devices do and where they are used.

What Do Pyrotechnic Cutters Do?

The purpose of pyrotechnic cutters is to slice through a variety of materials in a multitude of shapes. These tools can be found in a wide range of areas, including staging parachute systems, fiber optics, and balloon tethering.  In addition, these devices can be used in releasing folded assemblies, releasing cargo or munitions that are restrained, or opening electrical circuits.

Specializing in metal, pyrotechnic cutters are able to slice through aluminum, titanium, copper, and steel, along with other materials like electrical cables, kevlar, zylon, and woven fiber cords. There are hundreds of cutters, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Many of these cutters are specialized for certain sectors such as missile platforms, aircraft, satellites, aerospace platforms, and spacecraft, along with various military applications.

How Do Pyrotechnic Cutters Work?

They can be based on either laser, mechanical, or electrical principles. When in use, the energy source activates the drive blade to cut through the material in question. Oftentimes. these blades can slice through most materials in mere milliseconds.

These machines are capable of efficiently using a small bit of mechanical or electrical energy and turning it into a higher level of thermal energy. This is done by combining the energy with a pyrotechnic mixture that creates a controlled explosive reaction.

What Different Types of Pyrotechnic Cutters Are Used?

One type of pyrotechnic cutter is a bellow actuator, which is a device that turns pyrotechnic energy into motion. This type of motor uses a long stroke with a rotary motion. When activated, the cutter often follows the path, either straight or curved, of the surrounding surface.

Another variation is the dimple actuator. These motors produce shorter and linear motion, making them good for holding their position underneath a load. They are often used for arming projectiles, pushing a mechanical load, or operating some sort of switch or relay.

An inverse of the dimple actuator, a retractable actuator produces a withdrawing or pulling type of linear motion. The piston of these devices will lock into place after it retracts into the casing. It is often used for pulling a mechanical load along with activating switches. These are extremely hardy machines, to say the least. The best have an operating range from -54°C to +71°C and can work in a variety of pressures as well, with many rated to 10,000 feet below the water and working in atmospheres similar to Mars.

Popular versions of this cutter have been rated to slice through powerful Kevlar cable and a pair of 24 AWG wires within just 10 milliseconds. They also have many more capabilities that make them viable in use in certain governmental specifications. Because of their power, the versatility of application, and toughness, pyrotechnic cutters are qualified for multiple government specifications like MIL-DTL-23659, MIL-STD-1512, MIL-STD-1576, and MIL-HDBK-83578. These are military standards that discuss electro-explosives and their subsystems. This includes anything related to electrically started explosive or pyrotechnic components, including unintentionally setting off and other hazards.

MIL-DTL-23659 is related to testing of electric initiators and their various subassemblies. It also specifies how to properly determine the characteristics and soundness of the design of these parts. Pyrotechnic cutters are rated high enough to easily cut through these devices.

The MIL-HDBK-83578 standard also goes in-depth on space vehicle systems. Going into all manufacture, performance, and design criteria for these space vehicles mean that pyrotechnic cutter is often used by aerospace organizations.

What Are Some Other Applications of Pyrotechnics?

Aside from cutters or moving external loads, pyrotechnic-generated energy can be used in gas generators, igniters, switches, and valves. Certain manufacturers are able to take potential clients’ considerations into account and create or modify these designs to suit their needs.

Pyrotechnic cutters are used in many military and aerospace applications because of their capacity to work in tough conditions such as under the ocean, on Mars, or in either frigid and hot environments. The reaction is also able to be harnessed in other devices.