For the past several years, seemingly every day a new vaping device is introduced to the market. From box MODs with highly advanced chips, to sub-ohm clearomizers armed with nickel NI-200 coils, vaping has become and increasingly progressive industry. This is due to how new and subsequently competitive it is. Although this is quickly changing, the industry has also benefited from relatively low regulation enjoyed up to this point.
The following post is a guest post from Mike Ebrahimi. All guest posts are the works of their authors and their opinions are their own.
Along with the rapid release of fresh products comes an abundance of cutting-edge technologies. Electronic cigarettes today are leap years ahead of where they were just a few short years ago, and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. However, the swift progress we have seen with vaping hardware lends itself to the question, what does the future hold for vaping technology?
A Brief History of Electronic Cigarettes
In order to project where vaping technology is headed, it is helpful to look at a brief history of electronic cigarettes. The ecig story begins with a man named Herbert A. Gilbert who first conceived the idea of the electronic cigarette in 1963 when he introduced the world’s first “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette.” Although it was never successfully commercialized, Gilbert’s general concept serves as the basis on which modern day electronic cigarettes derive.
The idea of electronic cigarettes would not be revisited for 40 years after Gilbert’s failed attempt at mass-producing his invention. It was reborn in 2003 by a Chinese Pharmacist named Hon Lik. After experiencing the death of his father who died of lung cancer from years of smoking, Lik vowed to use his scientific background find a healthier alternative to analog cigarettes. Stemming from Gilbert’s notion of a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette,” Lik invented a device that vaporized pressurized propylene glycol—one of the primary ingredients of e-liquids to this day. The device used piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting elements to heat and ultimately vaporize the liquid. He also conceptualized the idea of using a plastic mouthpiece as an e-liquid reservoir—an idea that was used in the next generation of electronic cigarettes a few years later.
Although Hon Lik’s system gained some commercial popularity with smokers who wanted to quit cigarettes, it was not until 2007 that electronic cigarettes were reinvented, and began taking the form we see today. Umer and Tariq Sheikh, two British entrepreneurs, revolutionized the vaping industry when they invented the world’s first cartomizer. This device integrated the heating wire (coil) into the e-liquid reservoir. This was the technology on which the infamous Kanger cartomizers were built later same year.
Up to this point, electronic cigarettes called “cigalikes” were largely made to resemble analog cigarettes. However, four years after the introduction of the cartomizer, a new company emerged taking electronic cigarettes in an entirely new direction. Joyetech first entered the electronic cigarette arena in 2007 with the introduction of their 510 electronic cigarette. Using cartomizer technology, this device was designed to resemble a traditional cigarette. However, two years later Joyetech gave birth to the eGo series of vaporizers. The Joyetech eGo-T was an advanced three-part device that used a larger battery, a separate replaceable atomizer cone, and a plastic mouthpiece that also served as a refillable e-liquid reservoir. Shortly after Joyetech released the eGo-T, they introduced their next generation of eGo products—the eGo-C. Unlike the eGo-T, which forced you to replace the entire atomizer cone when the atomizer burned out, the eGo-c utilized a replacement atomizer coil. Joyetech’s replacement coil is what set the stage for atomizer heads as they are designed and used today.
In 2009, a new and innovative device called a clearomizer again revolutionized the vaping industry. Stemming from cartomizer technology, the clearomizer was met with great enthusiasm, as it was the first contraption to contain wicking material, an e-liquid reservoir, and an atomizer coil all within one single unit. Most notably, however, was the fact that clearomizers are transparent, and therefore display the amount of e-liquid that remains in the device. The transparent tank is the reason the name used for this device was coined “clearomizer.” The downside to the first generation of clearomizers was that they were disposable. Once the atomizer coil burned out, an entirely new clearomizer would be necessary replace it. However, as is the nature of the vaping industry, multiple manufacturers rapidly designed and manufactured various versions of clearomizers. Not long after their introduction, clearomizers were reengineered to integrate removable atomizer coils, thereby eliminating the need to purchase an entirely new device once the atomizer failed.
Around the same time clearomizers were first released, electronic cigarette manufacturers introduced more advanced batteries to be paired with them. Variable voltage batteries were the first to allow the power output of the battery to be adjusted. This was not only beneficial for those who wanted to modify the intensity of their hits, but also allowed for the use of atomizer coils with various resistances. The most popular of the first variable voltage batteries is the Joyetech eGo-C Twist—a product that is still widely used to this day.
Where The Electronic Cigarette Industry Stands Today
By the time clearomizers and variable voltage batteries hit the market, the vaping industry as a whole had gained an immense amount of popularity. As a result, electronic cigarette sales have skyrocketed exponentially over the past few years. In 2008, electronic cigarettes represented a mere $20 million a year industry. Today, that number has mushroomed to an unbelievable $2 billion, and still growing at an astonishing rate. Consequently, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in research and development over the years, which have translated into an endless array of technological advancements within a very short period of time.
Not long after variable voltage batteries become commonplace, the industry gave rise to variable wattage devices called Advanced Personal Vaporizers (APVs) a.k.a Regulated Mods. These gadgets were revolutionary when they were first introduced, as they were the first electronic cigarettes to possess internal chips, OLED screens, and other integrated features such as battery level indicators and ohms readers. Advanced Personal Vaporizers are still extremely popular today, and are constantly being redesigned and updated. Whereas just a few months ago the standard design of an APV was long and tube-shaped, the trend recently shifted towards square-shaped devices called Box MODs. Products, such as the Eleaf iStick, iTaste MVP 3.0, and Pioneer4You IPV Mini 2 have been some of the more popular mainstream vaping devices currently on the market.
The technological capabilities APVs are equipped with have recently been further advanced with the advent of temperature control systems. These cutting-edge devices are capable of setting and limiting the temperature of the atomizer coil, thereby providing vapor and flavor quality never before experienced with mass produced electronic cigarettes. Devices, such as the Yihi SX Mini M Class, the Vapor Shark rDNA 40, and the Pioneer4You IPV4 are equipped with highly advanced chips that serve as a central processing system. These new-age vaporizers are not only feature-rich, but are very powerful as well. They are generally designed with a high mAh capacity, capable of producing high output wattages and handling extremely low resistances.
The reason the latest generation of APVs are capable of producing such extremely high wattages is due to the current direction of tanks and atomizer coils. Since clearomizers were first introduced, vapers have been exceedingly interested in producing exceedingly larger vapor clouds. Cloud chasing, as it is often called, has been one of the big draws toward rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs). It was discovered that low resistance atomizer coils could withstand high wattages, thereby producing much larger vapor clouds. For this reason, a subsection of vapers engage in what is commonly called “building.” This refers to building ones own atomizer coils in contraptions called Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers. This subdivision of the vaping community gave rise to a host of niche companies who specialize in manufacturing extremely high-end atomizers.
Although RDAs & RBAs are alive and well, large companies such as Kanger and Aspire have now introduced a new breed of tanks to the market to compete with them—Sub-Ohm Tanks. Devices, such as the Kanger Subtank series, the Horizon Arctic and the Aspire Atlantis 2, are furnished with atomizer coils with resistances as low as 0.3ohm. This has virtually eliminated the need to build your own atomizer coils, as it is possible to more easily and conveniently achieve close to the same quality vapor with these new devices and heads. However, the Kanger Subtank Mini and Subtank Plus give the additional option of an RBA head for those who still want to build.
The Current Direction of Electronic Cigarettes
With the recent arrival of APVs and Box MODs furnished with temperature control systems, the immediate future holds a new class of atomizers that use nickel wire (NI-200). The NI-200 wire has high thermal and electrical conductivities, allowing it to be temperature-regulated. Moreover, the nickel wiring provides thicker vapor clouds and much more flavorful hits. With the temperature regulated and optimized, the NI-200 coils also last longer than conventional Kanthal resistance wire. Kanger recently released the first mass-produced nickel wired coils—the Subtank Nickel NI-200 OCC atomizer heads. This has set the stage for other companies, such as Aspire, to release versions of their own.
Another recent modification of atomizer coils that seems to be gaining rapid popularity is the use of organic cotton. Rather than the cotton used in the majority of atomizer heads, which are often bleached and potentially contain traces of impurities, organic cotton coils (OCC) are completely void of such impurities. Many companies have launched organic cotton atomizer coils, such as Kanger with their OCC coils and Aspire with their Atlantis cotton coils. This is a trend that is likely to continue, and at some point may even replace traditional cotton coils altogether.
Sub-ohm atomizers are certainly the current rave within the vaping community. It is highly likely that the industry will continue producing innovative new clearomizers that use atomizer coils with resistances under 1 ohm. Although it is doubtful that sub-ohm atomizers coils will completely overtake standard resistance ones, they are certainly here to stay. It is foreseeable that sub-ohm devices will be fine-tuned and somewhat ameliorated, but the foundation will likely remain the same.
The Future of Vaping Technology
During the beginning stages of the electronic cigarette industry, the emphasis was on smoother, cleaner, and more satisfactory hits. Once this was achieved, the focus shifted to better flavor and larger vapor clouds. Vapor production remains a focal point to this day, along with smarter and more advanced devices. However, with the immense amount of vapor, wattage, and advanced features current setups are capable of producing, what does the future hold for electronic cigarettes?
One of the primary focuses for future devices will likely be improved battery life. Although current devices are equipped with high mAh capacities, more compact devices often don’t have the power to last heavy vapers throughout the day without the need to recharge. The future will certainly see more efficient lithium-ion polymer batteries that will be smaller and more powerful than what is available today. Although some devices do currently utilize lithium-ion polymer technology, they are relatively inefficient and don’t capitalize on its full potential.
Batteries will certainly continue advancing technologically as well. More and more devices will offer features such as temperature control, while research development will simultaneously lead to further innovations. Future devices will likely integrate more advanced processors and microchips, allowing for the possibility of software integration and various applications. Future devices will conceivably be more interactive, intuitive, and user-friendly.
The vaping industry will also likely see an emphasis on longer lasting atomizer coils. Inasmuch as this is presently an area of focus, there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. Depending on several factors, such as your usage, a typical atomizer coil generally lasts between one to three weeks before needing to be replaced. It is expected that research will lead to much longer lasting atomizer heads that will have a lifespan measured in months rather than weeks. Testing with alternative metals for coils and materials to absorb the e-liquid are currently underway and showing promising results.
Moreover, the emphasis of atomizer coils will also surely shift from vapor production to flavor intensity. We have foreseeably reached a pinnacle in the way of cloud chasing. The amount of vapor that devices are capable of currently producing is staggering. Although the flavor output of atomizer coils have progressed substantially over the years, it has not been the central area of focus. Future atomizer coils will be more refined and capable of delivering much more potent flavor from e-liquids than what is experienced today.
However, the comprehensive central theme that will encompass the future of vaping technology as a whole will be quality over quantity. Rather than focus on rapid technological advancement, more emphasis will be placed on producing high-quality devices that will be reliable, durable, and long lasting. Vaporizers will be made with superior materials, and will be tested for longer periods of time to assure quality. Since the race has been on for the latest and greatest technology, new advancements are made seemingly on a daily basis. This urgency not to fall behind the curve has resulted in inadequate testing periods, and therefore higher levels of manufacturer defects. However, as we reach the pinnacle of vapor volume production, the industry will unquestionably call for better quality rather than incessant innovation.
The shift to quality will be furthered as more and more countries enter the electronic cigarette industry. Within the past year or so several companies have spawned across Europe—predominantly in Germany and Italy. As with many European products, the focus of these new entities has been exceptional quality. With the total sales figures increasing at an astounding rate, it won’t be long before Japanese companies begin emerging as well. Once state-of-the-art corporations, such as Samsung and Sony, take an interest in the industry, we will see quality and technological breakthroughs reach proportions currently unfathomable.
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