Something Has Changed, But Why?
The manufacturing market has done something very interesting lately: There are suddenly more new Rebuildable Tank Atomizers (RTA’s) coming out than other types of atomizers (tanks and drippers). It leads me to question their collective judgement. Are the manufacturers gambling on the latest short-lived trend, or do they see something changing in the hearts and minds of the vaping community? To try to answer this question, I’ve had conversations with customers, distributors, manufacturers, and fellow vape shop owners.
The reason this seems like such an odd move to me as a shop owner comes down to the amount of money we lost on the first generation RTA’s like the Kayfun. It seemed like such a great idea to just build a coil for a few cents rather than spending a few bucks on one. But the reality of first gen RTA’s (as well as many tanks that had screw-in build deck options) came down to the non-existent line between a dry hit and dumping juice everywhere. The sweet spot where it worked perfectly didn’t really exist. Of course, there are very skilled (or stubborn) builders out there who made it work, some will even claim perfectly. But the general community of vapers found mostly frustration and wasted money in those early attempts.
The Hardware Reinvented
So what’s changed about the RTA’s themselves? Hitting the market with the original Kayfun obviously wouldn’t do better than the first time around. (If you think it would, by all means, come buy one of these dinosaurs. I’ll make you a great deal on one. LOL) The changes are really in four distinct areas of design that are all equally important.
First, and probably most importantly, the method for properly wicking modern RTA’s is a completely different story than it used to be. Most RTA’s on the market now have such a broad “sweet spot” for the tightness of the cotton, they are forgiving enough for even minimally skilled builders to avoid dry hits without leaking. The most famous of these designs is the VCMT and its less expensive cousin, the BFT.
Next up are the build decks. Rather than a tiny little area that looks nothing like an RDA, some RTA’s sport pretty much full-sized RDA’s inside a tank wrapper. Even the most compact scale down popular 2 and 4 post designs to support multi-coil builds that are just as easy to install as a similar RDA.
The airflow on the first gens was just as bad as the now-dreaded CE4 disposable tank. The new generation of RTA’s feature either very free airflow or a widely adjustable range of airflow. Since making vapor requires juice, heat, and airflow to take the juice droplets off the heated surface, better airflow has improved the output of RTA’s to the level of RDA’s.
Finally, there’s the filling method. First gen RTA’s had various uncomfortable systems involving screws and needle bottles. It was a small project just to get juice into it. Most of the new generation of RTA’s have top fill capability with some of them even sporting flip top designs.
See the BFT Unboxed Here:
The Average Vaper Reinvented
So that covers what’s new and exciting about the hardware, but what about the expectation of the manufacturers that vapers are ready to embrace this new generation of RTA’s? Here’s where personal research with customers and colleagues comes into the picture.
A very important transition took place in vaping over the course of the the last year or so. You could call it the “Sub-ohm Revolution” but it would probably be more accurate to call it “The Lung Hit Revolution”. While it once took a tube mod and a drilled out RDA to get decent lung hit and a “big cloud”, suddenly the market was inundated by sub-ohm tanks and power modules (yes, that’s really what a “mod” is short for) that would not only fire down to a mere fraction of an ohm, but also up to WAY over the power of an outdoor flood light.
The net effect: vaping was finally a viable, long term IMPROVEMENT over smoking! People who have tried gas-station vapes and were convinced they could never replace a cigarette with one of these “contraptions” found themselves leaving cigarettes behind and never looking back.
Like most things, there was a very unexpected straw that broke the camel’s back. While many coils stayed in the B&M price range of $3-$4, Smok’s TFV4 hit the market with caution to the wind. How about a $6-$8 coil? There are all kinds of pre-built coil options ranging from a mere triple to a monster 8 coil beast available as well as a fairly straight-forward build deck. (In the picture above, you can see one of their non-prebuild RTA offerings that’s fresh on the market.) And the kicker of these giant, expensive coils? They don’t seem to last very long even with unsweetened juice. Throw some sweeteners in the tank which are all-to-common on the market and three days later, there goes another seven bucks for a coil.
So people actually started pulling out their build decks to stop the bleeding. But like other buildable decks designed to fit in a prebuilt coil’s place, they are not for everybody. There is considerable conflict over who made the first move to build a better RTA, but one popular contender for that spot is the Indulgence MT-RTA, riding on the success of their Mutation X bloodline. It’s deck is like a tiny T-post Mutation X and the cotton channels and top fill capability made it a runaway success for a time. As is always the case, other manufacturers took note and followed suit.
But Is This Really the Next Big Thing?
Months later, here we are: RTA’s EVERYWHERE. But what about the original question: Will the vaping community adopt them as a mainstream utility or will they remain in the realm of skilled tinkerers? Even after doing a lot of digging around, it’s hard to say.
The fact remains, they require effort. Effort is not something the average person has the time or inclination for these days. There is a big reward for the effort in both cash savings and output, but will it be enough? Everyone who has gone with one of the new breed of RTA’s swear there’s no going back.
There’s also the vape shops who drive the industry to consider. Vape shops have a love hate relationship with prebuilt coils. On one hand, I wince when there’s a new tank on the market and we have to stock new coils for it. We have more money tied up in all those coils than we pay a sales person for a year. But on the other hand, coils appear to make a good portion of the light bill because we buy them in bulk and sell them one at a time. The monster in the closet for a vape shop owner is how many of those coils will eventually get chucked in the trash because the tank became unpopular.
If vape shops talk about the ease and advantages of the new RTA’s, they could take off quickly. If they try to protect the revenue streams presented by the prebuilt coils, they might try to talk customers away from them. It’s too early to tell what the rest of the market will do, but we plan to do what we always do and educate the customer to make their own decision.
These are definitely interesting times. If you’re curious about the new breed of RTA’s, by all means, stop by Smoky Mountain Vapes in Pigeon Forge, TN to get an up close look at them. If you see me there, I’ll definitely be vaping on my BFT.