Vape Hardware Breakdown: What Is The Heating Element?
Because they are becoming so commonplace in the cannabis community, we often forget that vaporizers are complex marvels of technology. Even those well-versed in other aspects of cannabis tech might not necessarily understand the inner workings of vape hardware.
However, developing the most premier cannabis vapes requires a firm grasp on the subject. As a manufacturer, it’s critical to understand the subtle differences between the various component options available in order to find the hardware best suited to your unique needs.
Today, we’ll look at what’s perhaps the most essential component of any cannabis vape—the heating element. Sometimes referred to as an atomizer, the heating element is the engine that runs the vaporizer. Keep reading to learn more about what vape heating elements are and the different materials they can be constructed from.
Anatomy Of A Vape Pen
There are four key components to any typical pen vape. They are as follows:
- The Mouthpiece: Also known as the drip tip, the mouthpiece is the simplest and most self-explanatory piece of a vape pen. This is where users will place their mouths and inhale the vapor produced from the device.
- The Tank/Casing: The tank is the part of the vaporizer that contains the cannabis extract. Typically, these are made from transparent materials like glass or quartz to display concentrate inside.
- The Battery: If the heating element is the device’s engine, then the battery is the gas. The battery provides the necessary power to the heating element, allowing it to vaporize the extract housed in the tank. Almost all vape pens use a standard 510 thread battery.
- The Heating Element: Finally, we have the heating element. This part of the device creates the heat needed to convert the cannabis extract into an inhalable vapor.
What Is An Atomizer?
Some people may refer to a heating element as an atomizer, especially in the context of nicotine e-juice vapes, though the terms are essentially interchangeable.
A typical heating element/atomizer consists of a coil and, depending on the coil material, some sort of wicking material (usually made from cotton). The coil receives power from the battery, which causes it to generate enough heat to convert a cannabis extract into vapor.
In cartridge-based systems, the extract is prefilled into the tank before consumers purchase it. However, with dry herb vaporizers and wax pens, users will need to insert their cannabis material directly into the vape heating chamber.
If the heating element uses a cotton wicking agent, that wicking agent will absorb the cannabis extract from the device’s casing. Then, a properly functioning vape coil will heat the cotton wick, causing some of the oil absorbed by the wick to convert to vapor. The wick will then continue to absorb more extract. In contrast, heating elements without wicks come into direct contact with the concentrate.
Types Of Vape Heating Elements
Vape hardware manufacturers can construct the heating element for their devices from various different types of materials. The most common of these materials are as follows:
- Metal: Metal heating elements are very common in cannabis vape pens. Originally developed during the early days of electronic cigarettes, these heating elements utilize coils made from metal blends and cotton wicking agents.
- Quartz: Unlike metal atomizers, quartz heating elements don’t require the use of a wicking agent. These offer users some of the harshest and most intense vapor flavors of any option.
- Ceramic: Because of the material’s porous nature, ceramic heating elements also don’t require a wick. They have better heat resistance and heat retention when compared to other heating element materials.
Does The Type Of Heating Element Really Matter?
A device’s heating element makes a huge difference in overall quality for extractors and brands who want to produce the best possible product.
Let’s start with metal atomizers. While these are common, they have several flaws that make them inferior to newer hardware material options. First, they may actually present potential health risks to consumers. New studies have found that oxidized metal components may leach toxic heavy metals like lead into the cannabis extract, significantly increasing the danger of vaping for consumers. Fortunately, we can avoid this issue by using ceramic or quartz materials.
Additionally, metal heating elements perform worse than their counterparts. They don’t work with high-viscosity oils, and the cotton wicking agent often fails, leading to spitback and dry hits.
Quartz heating elements heat extremely quickly; however, they are prone to breaking. They also have poor heat retention, which means they will require more power and therefore drain batteries much faster than other heating elements. The high temperatures achieved with quartz coils create large plumes of vapor, though they can also cause the extract to take on an unappealing burnt taste.
Like those found in the S10 Labs Zirco Cartridge, Ceramic heating elements have incredible heat retention. This makes them compatible with high-viscosity oils, contributes to their longer life-spans, and results in more even heating and better overall flavor. Ceramic coils eliminate the potential for heavy-metal leaching and burnt-tasting dry hits, as well as significantly reducing the chances of leakage or spitback. Of all the heating element options available, ceramics offer the purest, most unadulterated cannabis flavor. This is essential for extracts like live resin, where taste is of paramount importance.
Ceramic heating elements are the prime choice for brands who want to prioritize flavor, performance, and safety.