History and Evolution of Vape Coils
The TFV8 Cloud Beast tank is the first tank on the market that comes standard with an octo-coil. Take a moment to drink that in: octuple coil setups, from the factory, just became standard equipment. This is a big deal, a solid move to raise the bar in an industry that always loves bigger and more powerful gear. As a point of respect, we want to tell you how we got here, how the industry evolved, from the beginning.
In The Beginning
You can trace the technology of vaping all the way back to April 1963, when a guy named Herbert Gilbert filed for a patent on the ‘smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’. John F. Kennedy was president, so you can understand that the technology described was not quite ready for production and the patent expired without making it into stores. The idea was reborn in 2003: a Chinese doctor named Hon Lik, who based his design for the electronic cigarette on ultrasonic atomization, developed a three-piece setup similar in size to analog cigarettes. These first-gen e-cigarettes were put into production, and the industry began selling globally in 2004.
In 2006, the next big innovation combined the atomizer and flavor cartridge into one piece, appropriately called the cartomizer. There was no ultrasonic technology here: the inventors, Umer and Tariq Sheikh of XL Distributors, opted for a simple resistance wire heating element wrapped in cotton.
That should sound familiar. That basic resistance wire technology lives on in every coil on the market today. Resistance wire tech was the foundation for a rapid evolution of consumer technology, rapid enough, in fact, to be compared to the market-driven advances in personal computing and cellular phones with no exaggeration whatsoever.
The cartomizer ruled the roost for the next few years, limited only by power output, which moved forward with an emphasis on capacity. Until 2011, coil resistance was typically around 2 or 2.5 ohms and drew small amounts of power, but expanded battery options - early “screwdriver” mods, Puresmokers, the eGo, and eventually variable voltage mods like the Lavatube – allowed more current. Taking advantage of this, dual coils were introduced into larger, high capacity cartomizers, giving much greater vapor production. With power output and coil technology advancing, everything got bigger. The cartotank – a ported cartomizer inside a glass or plastic reservoir – boosted juice capacity, and clearomizers were developed early in 2012 which used wicking systems instead of packed cotton.
In 2013, the DIY sector of the market simply exploded, and the standard of vapor production grew by leaps and bounds, largely due to the fast-growing hobbyist scene. RDA’s – rebuildable dripping atomizers first developed in 2012 – became the hobbyist’s equipment of choice, precisely because they allowed large multi-coil sub-ohm setups to be built. For drippers, dual coil became the standard, while triple and quad coil became legitimate options. Clapton coils, twisted wire, and parallel coils showed up in cloud comps across the country.
Mass market, plug-and-play equipment came along almost as quickly. In late 2012, tank-style clearos started using coils that could be removed and swapped with pre-manufactured replacements. Bottom-fed coils, like Kanger’s EVOD, came to market soon after. These systems introduced adjustable airflow and dual coil systems in an arms race to create more vapor and better flavor.
By 2014, you could buy a system with single coil, dual coil, or even dual dual coils from Kanger’s Aerotank Turbo, which challenged the Aspire Nautilus for the top position in the mass market vaping hierarchy and made up the first off-the-shelf quad coil setup. These coils still typically ran 1.6 or 1.8 ohms of resistance, but Kanger dropped its dual coils down to .8 ohms in the search for more vapor, a taste of things to come.
The Atlantis Arrives
In late 2014, the Aspire Atlantis dropped and the vaping world hit a new stage of development. The Atlantis was still, in theory, a clearomizer. But it will be remembered as the first full-powered mass market subohm tank, with a .5 ohm coil and a strong appetite for watts and juice.
The Atlantis started a race in its own right, with such fog machines as the Kanger Subtank, the Sense Herakles, the VCT series from Smok, the Eleaf Lemo, the Innokin iSub, and the 100 watt-rated Horizontech Arctic coming to market within the next six months. These tanks brought competition levels of vapor to everyone who could possibly want it.
The new coils learned a lot of lessons from the hobbyists. Thicker 24 and 22 gauge Kanthal could be found in many subohm tank coils, with much lower resistance and massive juice inlets to prevent dry hits. Dual coils used parallel builds, and by early 2016, Clapton wire found its way into many coils designed for improved flavor.
Throughout this evolution, variable voltage mods increased markedly in power output, giving a degree of flexibility necessary to run the new tanks and their formidable coils to their peak potential. Coil options on, for example, the Innokin iSub line ranged from .2 ohms to 2 ohms, practical for the same device because of the broad range of power settings, from 6 to 100 watts on the Innokin TC100w kit.
The release of the Smok TFV4 in 2015 introduced radical new coil designs that took advantage of the large size of the coil casing, including triple coils arranged in a triangular pattern, quad coils arranged parallel, sextuple coils, and eventually the outrageous Clapton octocoil, with its 180 watt power handling ability. Today, the new TFV8’s octocoil can handle a whopping 260 watts, and your typical DJ’s fog machine envies their production.
The Temp Control Revolution
While many vapers searched for the ultimate in raw vapor output, a different group developed a radical new technology that allowed the user to control temperature just as easily as they controlled wattage.
Evolve LLC, makers of the first variable wattage mod back in 2010, brought temp control to the masses in 2014 with the DNA 40 chipset. These chips utilized nickel 200 wire instead of Kanthal or NiChrome because nickel’s resistance changed with its temperature, allowing the chip to target a temperature by monitoring the resistance and adjusting power output in real time. Similar chips quickly found their way into competing mods and, by 2015, many mods could produce well over 100 watts in wattage mode along with full temperature control.
The advance meant significantly greater safety for the most health conscious vapers, because research has shown that aldehyde production increases significantly beyond certain temperatures. And besides, some people just like a cooler vape!
Soon, nickel 200 wire saw competition from titanium wire and eventually stainless steel, which could be used as temperature control or wattage. Each of these materials has gained their own following. So even as major-vapor subohm tanks have become normal, their manufacturers have also furthered their usefulness by offering temp control coils in at least one of these materials, giving vapers a degree of options and flexibility unheard of just a couple of years ago.
The coming FDA deeming regulations, again, use February 2007 as their cutoff year. Everything developed since then must undergo a testing process which promises to be expensive, drawn out, and difficult to pass, with every piece of interchangeable equipment needing to be workable and safe when used with every other piece available. There are many ways manufacturers can address these regulations, but you will notice that, in 2007, the vaping gear available on the market was almost entirely of the cartomizer-driven cigalike type. Given the lobbying power of companies who sell most of those cigalike systems, you have to wonder about the convenience of that cutoff date.But we have roughly two years before the retail selection really begins to suffer, and given the swiftness of the industry over the last two years, we can hope for more to come before vaping hits those inevitable speed bumps. At the very least, it’s been a hell of a ride thus far.
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