Know Your Vape-Speak: What’s an Atomizer?

One of the most important vaping terms is atomizer – referring to the piece that actually turns the e-liquid into a vapor. What is the history and role of this vaporizer component? What is dripping, and what are rebuildable atomizers (and differences between RBAs, RDAs & RTAs)?

  • Why Vaping?
  • A Brief History of the Atomizer
  • Role of the Atomizer
  • Dripping Pros & Cons
  • What About the Rebuildable Atomizer?
  • RBA vs. RDA vs. RTA
  • Make the Switch

Why Vaping?

There is a public debate going on right now about the safety of electronic cigarettes. In August 2015, UK health officials published an important and highly publicized review of vaporizers. The prominent analysis revealed that vaping could be assumed “around 95 percent safer than smoking” and that it had “potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco.” In other words, at least according to Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health in the UK, vaping is a safe and recommended way to quit smoking.

A Brief History of the Atomizer

Thinking that vaping might be a good route for quitting cigarettes is just the first step, though. You have to actually go out and get an electronic cigarette, and the market can at first seem a bit obtuse. There is quite a bit of jargon, and you need to know some of the equipment basics if you really want to be a savvy buyer or even figure out what types of products you want. The initial e-cigarette mods (modified versions that are most popular among veteran users) were composed of three pieces. The components were a small battery (the power), an atomizer (the vaporizing piece), and a cartridge or tank containing e-liquid (the substance to turn into vapor). It was a reasonable beginning, but it was problematic to have the cartridge and atomizer as different pieces because leaking tended to occur. Manufacturers gradually started solving that problem by marketing combined atomizer/cartridge pieces called cartomizers. In other words, now the e-cigarette is typically composed of two pieces. Once the cartomizer was born, the atomizer was included in these larger components and became a more peripheral vaping concept. However, the atomizer started to become prominent again when dripping became more popular.

Role of the Atomizer

Atomizers are now available in a number of different forms. The cartomizer, which is a combination cartridge-atomizer, is the most popular way it’s constructed. There are a number of cartomizer variations: top- and bottom-coil, dual-coil, and horizontal- and vertical-coil atomizers are a few of the major types. The atomizer, regardless if it’s an individual piece or part of a cartomizer, will always contain a heating element (which is typically a tiny gauge wire) that is what turns the juice into vapor. A wire within the atomizer is attached to a circuit board and a battery. When you push a button, the circuit board transmits power to a pair of locations, a small wire (the heating element) and a tiny micro-pump. “The pump forces the e-liquid through the atomizer where the heating element is located,” at which point the juice becomes vapor, explains Quit Smoking Community. “This process continues until the user stops sucking or the button is released.” That’s a very generalized description but holds true in terms of how many e-cigarettes are designed.

Dripping Pros & Cons

Dripping is a type of vaping that has become increasingly popular. With this tactic, you drip the juice straight into the atomizer, with no need for a tank or cartridge. Pros The reason people started dripping is for better flavor, because the e-liquid isn’t stored, potentially for weeks, in a cartridge or tank. The juice that is used for dripping is immediately vaporized. Cons Dripping may help the flavor, but it certainly isn’t convenient. You can’t just take your vaporizer out and begin to use it. You have to first get organized. It’s a process. Plus, you might spill the juice on yourself, in your car (while it’s parked of course), or wherever else you might be. Finally, it’s recommended to wear gloves when you do this (seriously) so that you don’t absorb a toxic dose of nicotine (with juices that contain it).

What About the Rebuildable Atomizer?

One version of the atomizer that has, like dripping, caught on in recent years is the rebuildable atomizer. These are fully customizable pieces. You can get inside them, adjusting the wire and wick to tweak your vaping experience. These atomizers are popular among those who want big vapor clouds – called cloud-chasers.

RBA vs. RDA vs. RTA

Let’s get a little more granular: what is the difference between an RBA, RDA, and RTA? Rebuildable atomizer (RBA): This term refers to any fully customizable version of the atomizer. Rebuildable dripping atomizer (RDA): This subcategory of RBA is known for enhancing flavor. It is also the most common type of atomizer used with sub-ohm vaping, in which the atomizer coils have less than an ohm of resistance, comments E-cigarette Forum Vaping Master State O’ Flux. The RDA is “[t]ypified by a short, 510 base, sufficient to hold a coil or coils,” he adds, “with a small juice well to drip juice into via the drip tip.” Rebuildable tank atomizer (RTA): This term denotes a pressure-differential tank that encapsulates and supplies the atomization chamber.

Make the Switch

Are you interested in atomizers? What about dripping, RBAs, and cloud-chasing? At, part of our mission is to provide the best customer service in the vaping industry. Check out our mods & rebuildables.

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