What is an Atomizer? E-Cig Terminology Simplified



For some, the prospect of the electronic cigarette is a little daunting. The community surrounding the technology has for the most part been helpful, but there are still a great many confusing aspects of the e-cig out there. So much so that a newcomer to vaping might not know where or how to begin.

When e-cigs made their debut it was the three-piece models that caught the attention of smokers. Well, it was really the only model available for purchase. Such was the humble beginning of electronic cigarettes: a small battery, the atomizer, and the tank or cartridge that held the e-juice. That was how it all began.

It was a decent start, but having the atomizer and cartridge separate tended to cause a lot of leakage, and comparing the vapor production and flavor of those models to what we have today would be just unfair.

But progress, as it always does, moved faster than anyone ever thought it would. And in typical technology fashion, the answer to the problem was a simple one: simply combine the atomizer and cartridge to make a sealed cartomizer.

However, just because it had been integrated into a new the stand-alone atomizer was not done yet. It made somewhat of a comeback in the form of “dripping” which some purests claim to be the cleanest way to vape.

How The Atomizer Works

There are various types of atomizers in the industry today. For the most part, the cartomizer which is a cartridge with a built-in atomizer, is the way most people choose to go. Even so, within these cartomizers are top-coil, bottom-coil, dual-coil, horizontal and vertical coil atomizers to name a few. To put it simply, the atomizer, whether built into a cartomizer or in a stand-alone design, uses a heating element (usually a very small gauge wire) to vaporize the e-liquid.


If you are more of a technically minded person then let’s try this explanation. Looking at the atomizer you have a wire which is connected to a circuit board as well as a power supply. The circuit board (when activated by a push of a button) sends power to two places. The first is a heating element (the thin wire) and the second is a micro-pump located within the atomizer. The pump forces the e-liquid through the atomizer where the heating element is located. As the e-liquid passes this it is vaporized. This process continues until the user stops sucking or the button is released. Different models function slightly different.

Where Are Atomizers Found? What are their uses?

Typically the atomizer is part of both the two-piece and the three-piece electronic cigarette. On the two-piece e-cigs however it is rare that you would ever need to bother yourself with it. It is the three-piece e-cig where the atomizer is something you need to pay attention to. The three-piece e-cig uses the atomizer as a stand-alone piece to the entire puzzle. Either way, you cannot have an electronic cigarette without an atomizer.



A method of vaping that has caught on over the last year especially is dripping. Dripping is a pretty self-explanatory method of vaping where you simply drip the e-liquid into the atomizer directly. This bypasses the cartridge or the tank completely. Of course there are some obvious drawbacks to vaping in this manner. First however, lets take a look at what benefits can be taken away from dripping.


The first and most powerful argument for dripping is the taste and flavor of the e-juice. Provided the atomizer is clean, the flavor of the e-juice is more evident when dripping. The e-liquid is not forced to sit for long periods in a tank or cartridge nor is old juice mixed with new juice. The e-liquid that is dripped into the atomizer is burned up during that session so nothing remains. Many people who are self-proclaimed purists swear by dripping as the best way to vape.


The most obvious drawback to dripping is the inconvenience of it all. With this method you cannot just simply pull your e-cig from your pocket and start vaping. To drip you must almost always be somewhere that you have the time to set up the things you need and then you can proceed to vape. It takes quite a while sometimes if you are not prepared before hand. It can also be very messy. If you are not careful it is easy to drip e-juice everywhere. It is also recommended that you wear gloves because nicotine can soak through your skin and you can expose yourself to toxic amounts of the chemical by doing so.

Present Day Uses

Today dripping has become rather popular despite its obvious drawbacks. There are those who are very serious about their flavors and the quality of the e-liquid they use. For these people, dripping is absolutely the only way to vape. Typically you will also find that those who prefer this method will also mix their own flavors of e-juice and will usually rebuild their atomizers as opposed to purchasing new ones. The market has noticed this as well and there are even a few models out there specifically made for dripping.

Cult Of Rebuildable Atomizers

Just like anything else that lends itself to modification and tinkering, the rebuildable dripping atomizers have caught on big. The main reason for the explosion of interest is that it gives people the ability to control their vaping experience themselves. Some people just like to tinker with things too. The rebuildable atomizer was made specifically for these people. These products are made to be taken apart and to accept various sizes or thickness of wire as well as the wicks that carry the liquid to the wire. Vapers who use these atomizers claim to get not only the most flavor from their e-juice but also the biggest vapor clouds possible.

Here’s a quick primer on rebuildable atomizers:

The best example of the popularity of these methods is to take a look at the people who are using them. There are a large portion of consumer who “drip” who have never smoked tobacco cigarettes before in their lives. They got involved in vaping because of the flavor and because the ability existed to build variations of the products they purchased. They were able to modify their atomizers to their own personal specifications and preferences. Because of this, they claim that their vaping experience has been enhanced beyond what could have been produced with standard models.


  1. I have the Smok Alien and my screen is telling me that my atomizer is short. Can you tell me what that is and what it means? I was using a different tank on my mod for a while. It was fine until I put it in my purse while I was in Chicago.

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