Nothing is more fun to watch than a new tech industry with plenty of competition. When dozens of manufacturers compete against one another for supremacy, innovations appear so rapidly that it can be difficult to keep track of them. A product representing the state of the art in a young industry on the day of its release can become obsolete by the end of the year, and that’s one of the first things you’ll learn when you want to put yourself through Vaping 101 and learn a bit about the history of vaping.
If you happen to be a consumer who vapes, the rapid evolution of the vaping industry is a great thing for you. Just when you think that your vaping experience has gotten as good as it’s ever going to get, someone comes up with an innovation that throws out all of the old paradigms and makes things even better.
Vaping has already changed fundamentally several times over the little over a decade in which it has existed. What new innovations could be on the horizon? While it’s impossible to predict the future, we may be able to get a better idea of what’s coming by learning more about the innovations that have already occurred. These are the technologies that changed vaping as we know it.
The first technology on our list revolutionized vaping by turning e-cigarettes into the reliable and convenient consumer products that they needed to be in order to gain mainstream acceptance. The term “cartomizer” is a portmanteau of “cartridge” and “atomizer,” the components that – along with the battery – formed the three-part e-cigarettes that were the first vaping devices.
The three-part e-cigarette used a semi-permanent atomizer that screwed into the battery and provided the heat necessary to vaporize the e-liquid. The atomizer would usually last for several weeks until it required replacement. The e-liquid, meanwhile, came in a hollow plastic cartridge with a wet sponge inside it. You’d use a three-part e-cigarette by pushing the cartridge over the atomizer, which would cause the e-liquid to flow from the sponge to the heating coil.
Three-part e-cigarettes were the proof of concept showing that vaping really could help people transition away from smoking. However, the performance of the sponge-filled cartridges was extremely inconsistent because the e-liquid never seemed to travel to the e-cigarette’s atomizer coil reliably. A three-part e-cigarette could be very frustrating to the user because it would randomly stop generating vapor while the sponge was still wet.
By combining the e-liquid and atomizer coil into a single self-contained unit, the cartomizer put the e-liquid right next to the heating coil to ensure that the user would never get an unsatisfying puff unless the cartomizer was empty. More importantly, the cartomizer was a simple screw-in-and-go component that everyone instinctively and instantly knew how to use. The technology was so perfect for beginning vapers that almost every cigarette-shaped e-cigarette still uses cartomizers today.
The Replaceable Coil Vape Tank
By the end of 2010, most e-cigarette brands for beginners were shipping their e-liquid in cartomizers rather than the old hollow plastic cartridges. It would still be a couple of years, however, before more experienced vapers would receive the e-liquid storage solution they really needed. As a vaper gains experience, it’s extremely common for that person to seek out new hardware that produces bigger vapor clouds while simultaneously dialing back the nicotine strength of his or her e-liquid. For a long time, though, there simply weren’t any easy ways to add power and additional e-liquid storage to a vaping device.
Members of the vaping community created the first vape tanks by drilling holes into the sides of cartomizers and surrounding those cartomizers with plastic or glass enclosures. When in use, the cartomizer’s filler material would dry out, and the cartomizer would draw e-liquid in from the enclosure. The “cartomizer tank” allowed for greatly increased e-liquid capacity, but it did nothing for the vapor production of a vaping device because the cartomizer itself was unchanged.
For experienced vapers who were craving bigger clouds and bolder flavors, the solution finally arrived in the form of the first purpose-built vape tanks. Although the technology has improved greatly since the introduction of the first vape tanks, even the very first tanks functioned essentially the same as the tanks that vapers use today. The atomizer coil that connected to the tank’s base was a replaceable component that the user would discard when the flavor quality was no longer acceptable. When the tank was in use, a glass enclosure holding several milliliters of e-liquid surrounded the coil. As the user vaped, the cotton wick inside the coil would become dry and absorb more e-liquid from the tank until the tank was empty.
The Vape Pod
When cartomizer technology first appeared, vaping immediately became more accessible and enjoyable for newbies – but while cartomizers were infinitely better than the plastic cartridges they replaced, they still had a few shortcomings. The fact that a cartomizer held its e-liquid in wet gauze meant that it had poor airflow and couldn’t produce very large vapor clouds. The gauze itself also took up space, limiting the amount of e-liquid a cartomizer could hold.
First released in the mid 2010s, the vape pod is a self-contained e-liquid storage solution that, much like the cartomizer, contains both the vape juice and the heating coil needed to vaporize it. Unlike cartomizers, though, pods are neither opaque nor cylindrical in shape. The fact that they’re translucent means that vape pods never leave any question as to whether they’re close to running out of e-liquid. Since they’re made from plastic rather than metal, vape pods can be manufactured in any shape and can be used in e-cigarettes that don’t attempt to mimic the appearance of tobacco cigarettes.
The main benefit of vape pods, though, is that a pod stores its e-liquid in a hollow tank rather than in wet gauze. The design allows pods to have significantly better airflow characteristics than cartomizers, which dramatically improves flavor and vapor production. Pods have made the vaping experience better for newbies, and they’re even good enough that many veteran vapers have decided to trade their larger vape mods in for pod-based devices.