An overview of the vaping technology evolution
September 9, 2020

The popularity of vaping has seen the industry emerge as one of the fastest-growing worldwide in recent years due to the unprecedented uptake of vaping amongst adult smokers seeking better alternatives than cigarettes. More and more people are looking to switch away from combusted cigarettes, and the global market was estimated to be worth $19.3 billion this time last year.

Yet vaping’s rise to prominence is not solely attributable to the functional benefits when compared to smoking. The technology behind these devices has witnessed an evolution in its own right, and today’s vapes are way more advanced than they were a decade ago. Technology and customer needs continue to change rapidly, and vaping devices have ultimately followed suit, with regular improvements made, so they are more efficient and effective in line with adult users’ demands.

For starters, it’s important to understand how vapes function. Those who vape will, of course, already be familiar. But for those who are not, there are two main components to vaporize the liquid – the battery and the atomizer. Without the battery, electrical currents could not be sent to the atomizer, which is often referred to as the coil. And without these currents, the atomizer would be unable to heat the liquid/juice. It’s also important to note that, despite vaping technology advancements, every device still contains these two essential parts today.

First generation

The first commercially successful vapes were introduced in China in 2003 following pharmacist Hon Lik’s creation, which marked the beginning of the modern evolution of e-cigarettes. Devices from this era closely resemble cigarettes. They are disposable – neither rechargeable nor refillable – and are categorized as the first generation. Devices from this era had closed vape systems – those that cannot be refilled – because, at the time, conventional tanks that can be unscrewed, washed, and screwed back again had not been introduced.

Hon Lik’s Ruyan vape had a three-piece setup, with a flavor cartridge to accompany the battery and atomizer. Over the next three years, the Ruyan’s profile developed in China, which led to a simpler device becoming available in 2006. Containing two separate parts rather than three, the cartomizer integrated the flavor cartridge and atomizer and was the first vape to have a resistance wiring element wrapped around the cotton. First-generation devices acquired the name cig-a-likes, resembling combustible tobacco cigarettes but bigger and heavier. Now widely considered basic devices, they were nevertheless groundbreaking at the time, introducing society to vaping and helping adult smokers move away from traditional tobacco products.

Second generation

The second generation saw the introduction of vape pens, which are largely responsible for the industry’s growth and remain popular with users new and old. Vape pens represented a whole new chapter in vaping due to the upgraded technology and increased performance power. They improved previous flaws and created a better experience for adult users overall. Users could recharge and refill when these became available, enabling them to keep one device rather than using disposables. Unlike first-generation vapes, the second generation had open vape systems. The mouthpiece was built into the vape cartridge with closed systems, whereas open systems provided a removable mouthpiece and a clearomizer.

Developed in 2009, the clearomizer resulted in liquid needing to be administered manually and represented the first technology that contained the wicking material, reservoir, and the atomizer coil in one unit. With a clearomizer, consumers could also see the juice level in their tank, while the atomizer had to be replaced after a certain amount of time, depending on frequency and use. Vape pens were the first devices to have a chip to prevent overheating and a button that worked as a firing mechanism for vaping and turning the battery on and off. When compared to first-generation devices that only produce vapor when inhaled, have a short battery life, and lack flavor options and customizability – these improvements emphasize the scale of the vaping technology evolution in just a few short years.

Third generation

The popularity and commercial success of vape pens led to the continued evolution of vaping technology and the development of third generation devices, widely referred to as MODs. Short for modified, MODs overtook existing technologies by being more efficient with an even longer battery life, offering greater control to users through a digital display. Consumers suddenly had the power to adjust the temperature for a consistent vape and regulate wattage and voltage. Coils and tanks also became an integral part of the vaping technology evolution, enabling users to control airflow and provide the vaping experience that met the preference of various adult users.

Fourth generation

The fourth generation of vaping devices represents the most recent advancements in the vaping technology evolution. Many new entries in the market fall into this category, all of which are powerful and innovative. Besides various-shaped batteries and hardware that enables users to regulate output, they are upgraded versions of MODs with automatic temperature control and the ability to manage low resistances. Sub-ohm tanks are used for high wattage devices – the higher the wattage, the less resistance is required. These tanks hold more liquid, and the coils also vary in terms of resistance – providing users with even more control as part of the vaping evolution journey.

Innovation in the industry

Much like technology, the vaping industry has also evolved, with innovation now integral to success. Around the world, brands able to differentiate themselves through their strong commitment to quality will inevitably pull ahead in their respective markets. For example, RELX Technology has grown to become Asia’s leading brand by continually striving to deliver new products and meet changing consumer demands led by innovation. The brand has invested heavily in its people, laboratory, and production – developing six original devices in just one year while spending over $14 million in R&D since 2018. Product innovation and development are essential elements of the brand’s mission to develop industry-leading vape products, including its latest flagship – RELX Infinity – which boasts several new technological features.

One of those features is the Leak-Resistant Maze, which comprises 11 structural layers to prevent internal leaks and condensation for a more secure vaping experience. Another is the new ergonomic mouthpiece design shaped to fit users’ lips, made possible through rigorous consumer testing to eliminate air leakage and ensure a comfortable feeling when inhaling. Two key RELX technologies have also enhanced vaping experiences with Infinity devices – Active-Steam Pro and Air Boost design. Active-steam Pro achieves a consistent vapor volume and quality by actively balancing and controlling both atomizing power and temperature. At the same time, the aerodynamic Air Boost design creates negative pressure that pushes the vapor up from the atomizer. It’s also noteworthy that RELX Infinity comes with a dual charging system that fully charges the device in 45 minutes, in addition to adult users having the option to buy a slim, stylish wireless charging case that can easily fit into one’s pocket.

These latest advancements have brought about yet another chapter in the vaping evolution, setting the standard and benchmark for the next generation of innovations over the coming years.

by Victor Philip Ortiz
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff. When he’s not busy playing with the latest games, Victor usually spends his time collecting Blu-rays and building his own movie library. As the Online Editor for T3 Middle East, he develops and writes content for which includes reviews, features, and videos in addition to managing its social media and web content.
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