How Vape Pens Work: Mastering Vape Pens is This Easy
Vape pens are now the preferred way for new vapers to enjoy either e-liquid or concentrates. The pens offer unmatched convenience and simple designs that anyone can use.
Vape pens operate only with a single button. They rarely have screens and some models have no button at all, using instead a draw-activated battery making them even more user-friendly.
Vape pens, or even a dab pen, are a great introduction to vaping, so this article will detail all their different classes, capabilities, and features.
Table of Contents
- A Piece-by-Piece Breakdown
- Different Types of Vape Pen by Material
- Closing Thoughts
Vape Pens: An Autopsy
Vape pens are simple devices that have only a few parts to them. The parts are the same across all styles of vape from a vape pen to box mod. Those parts are the following:
- A tank
- A battery
- A coil or heating element (usually in the tank)
The way these three elements are assembled differ among some models, but there are a few basic configurations. Each component also has different styles and designs so a piece-by-piece breakdown is what follows.
Vape pens need somewhere to store and hold the material being vaped, which is the function of the tank. The tank, aka atomizer or oven (for dry herb materials), is where users put their preferred vaping material, whether it is e-liquid, oil, and wax or dry herbs.
For e-liquid tanks, their build usually features a glass section rimmed with stainless steel parts.
E-liquid tanks also feature a built-in mouthpiece, which is removable. The mouthpiece also acts as the top cap that users need to remove to pour in their liquid.
Another essential feature of tanks is the heating element inside, which will be explored further in another section.
Depending on the material and the style of the pen, the tank could have varying liquid capacities. The typical range runs from 0.5ml to 2ml for the simpler, beginner models.
The capacity could rise with more advanced designs, but vape pens that use pre-filled, 510 tanks usually have a set capacity of between 1 and 2ml.
The “510” is the universal threading that most tanks come with to make them attach to corresponding batteries. 510-threading has become standard on new tanks, with a few exceptions. Users can also look for 810-threading on both tanks and batteries, but they are rare to find.
Vape pen batteries are usually separate from the tank section. Like tanks, batteries also feature universal 510-threading so users can switch between different tanks. AIOs are devices that have a tank and battery housed in the same chassis, but they are a different class of vape. Batteries for vape pens are what power the heating element inside the tank that produces the aerosol users inhale.
The simplest, easiest-to-use batteries feature a single button on its exterior that controls the entire device. But, there are vape pens that feature an integrated design (battery and tank together) that does not use buttons. Instead, the battery uses a sensor that activates when air passes through it so users do not need to push a button. These are air-activated batteries and they are also a popular variation on vape pen batteries.
Vape pen batteries also have a limited power output, depending on their size and capacity. The most common voltage range of simple, one-button batteries is between 3.2V and 4V, but that is if they have a variable voltage range. A lot of batteries do, and a lot of batteries don’t, it depends on the cell.
The Heating Element
The heating element aka atomizer, inside a vape tank, is what heats the material inside a tank to create inhalable vapor. The material a heating element is made of varies and creates different vaping experiences. Simple, e-liquid vape pens stick to a design that was established in the early days of tank atomizers aka clearomizers aka cartomizers.
Early e-liquid vape pens (and tanks) used an absorbent material, usually cotton, and a metal coil that wrapped around the wick. The wick absorbed the e-liquid, and then the metal wire was heated by the battery, resulting in vapor. This design is still found today, but there are variations, especially for different types of a vape pen.
Oil and liquid concentrates pen may also use wick and coil designs, but coil and rod designs are more common. The coil/rod heating element for liquid pens consists of single or dual rods made from ceramic, quartz, or some other heat-resistant material with metal wire wrapped around. The heating element is exposed.
Users can pour their materials directly into the tank where it makes direct contact with the atomizer. The battery heats the metal wire, transferring heat to the rods, which then heats up the liquid – this design is also common for solid concentrates. Dry herb vape pens have a different configuration altogether, which we will talk about later.
Control Panel and Internals
Since vape pens are intended for new users, they rarely have screens or advanced electronics. The few that do are not that different from those that do not; they just give users more control over the vape variables. The vape pens where screens are most found are those that vape dry herb material.
Simple vape pens often have preset settings, usually between three and four settings that are controlled via the single button.
Vape pens with screens are there to let users select an exact temperature to vape their dry herb material. The screens are often built into the device’s exterior and are hidden out of place like on the bottom of the battery or in another out-of-the-way spot.
E-liquid and concentrates vape pens function well enough with preset settings that they do not need screens. E-liquid and concentrates vape pens do often have a chip that regulates the power output and offers minor protections like auto-shutoff and battery protection features.
Users who want to have full control over their vaping variables can graduate to more advanced box mods or dab rigs that offer most user-customization options.
Using and Handling a Vape Pen
Vape pens are meant to be an introduction to vaping. They offer a simple, easy-to-use device for people who are making the transition from regular combustion cigarettes or other smoking material. As such, they are meant to be user-friendly and are not hard to master in only a few hours.
- The first step to using a vape pen is to make sure the battery is fully charged. A few batteries come with a semi-charge straight from the factory, but to get the most longevity from the cell it is best to charge it fully. The one accessory that comes with all vape pens is a USB cable or charger to recharge the battery.
- Once the battery is charged, users can attach their tank. It is best to attach the tank before filling it so you do not have any filling problems. It is easier to fill the tank when it is attached to the battery than when it is not.
- With the tank full, the battery charged, the device is ready to vape. As stated, basic vape pens have one-button control. This button takes five clicks to turn on, five clicks to turn off, but there are variations. Air-activated batteries have no buttons, so users need only inhale from the mouthpiece to activate the heating element.
The Many Types of Vape Pen
Vape pens are classified by the material it vapes. Based on the material, subtle changes to the basic design of a vape pen occur. Things like glass tanks and cotton/wire wicks do not apply to dry herb vape pens, just like an oven with conduction heating does not work with e-liquid. But they both use 510-batteries and single-button controls.
The vape pen was created to vape e-liquid with liquid nicotine. The early models combined a removable tank and a low-voltage battery, which is the same configuration used today
- A removable tank
The tank also features a built-in mouthpiece that is removable so users can fill and refill their tank. The battery often has a USB charging port to recharge the battery or it can attach to a USB charger to be plugged into a compatible port.
Concentrates pens are the most similar to e-liquid pens in that they also feature a glass tank and battery combination. The only difference is the material inside, as well as the heating element, although many liquid pens can vape both materials.
Concentrates pens can also use wick and wire atomizers, but they often use either:
- Coil/rod atomizers
- Ceramic core atomizers
- Flat-disc atomizers
Concentrates pens also differ slightly from e-liquid pens in that they use pre-filled vape tanks. There are also pre-filled e-liquid pods, which are plastic vape cartridges that have a different build than glass tanks and have Plug n’ Play usability. Concentrates pens also come with variable voltage settings, but it is not a standard feature, and capabilities vary.
Dry Herb Pens
Vape pens for dry herb material have a different internal and external design than liquid pens. For one, they are slightly larger than the latter, given the material they vape. Instead of heating elements, dry herb vape pens work like mini ovens. Like regular ovens, they use either:
- Conduction heating (direct contact)
- Convection heating (heating via hot-air)
- Hybrid heating (conduction and convection)
The oven, aka chamber, on dry herb pens, is usually:
- Lined with heat-resistant material like ceramic
- The capacity range between 0.5g and 1.5gs
Users grind up their material and then load the chamber. Depending on the device, it can take anywhere between 10-40 seconds for the device to reach temperature. If it is a device with preset heat settings users can choose from several options. If the device has precision temperature control, users can dial in their preferred temperature.
Disposable vape pens support only liquid material. Disposables are also self-contained and are meant for a limited amount of time, until either the liquid or battery runs out. This means they cannot be recharged or refilled. Disposable vape pens are also the devices that most feature air-activated batteries.
Users can buy a single device and vape it right away without having to charge the battery or fill a tank. Some devices like the Juul have disposable parts, like the pre-filled liquid pods, but the battery can be recharged, so it is not a full disposable.
Conclusion: Vape Pens: The Friendliest Vape Device
Vape pens aim to bring people into vaping. They are convenient, discreet, easy-to-use, and inexpensive.
The many styles of the pen also provide enough versatility to users to try different experiences. Users can try manual or automatic batteries, different coil types, and batteries with preset or advanced settings to find their ideal vaping experience.
About the author: James Bickford is a journalist and part of the VapingDaily editorial team. Using recent research, he explains the influence of smoking on society and gives advice on how to quit smoking. Reach out to him here https://twitter.com/jameswbickford1