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The context of this article assumes that you have a fair bit of knowledge on the world of vaping and its components.
If you've been in the vaping scene for a while now, you might have heard of dripping atomizers (aka RDAs or drippers). Whether you've heard of them or not, this article will attempt to give you some insight into what they are, what they can do and maybe help you decide if you should get one. For the sake of keeping things interesting, let me just make it clear that, to date, there is no other type of atomizer in existence that will provide you the flavor, vapor and throat hit like an RDA.
Let me drive straight down to the components and how those components work together. The typical dripper has 3 main components (while more advanced RDAs even more):
The deck and base - The deck contains a positive and negative post to mount your heating element (coil) and the base is fixed with a 510 connection to mount your RDA into your device.
The chamber barrel - This is the barrel that will go around the deck and base creating a chamber around it. The chamber, in most cases is held to the base by o-rings.
Top cap - This is what goes on top of the barrel and closes the chamber from the top. It also allows for a drip tip to be attached on top of it.
To get a visual representation of the components, do a Google search for 'Trident RDA' and take note of the different parts when its all taken apart.
So, how do these components, when put together, produce exceptional flavor and massive clouds of vapor? A few factors come into play:
Air flow - RDAs have massive air flow intake holes on them, usually drilled on the chamber. These range anywhere from 1.5mm to 3mm and maybe on both sides of the barrel in some RDAs. The increased air flow acts as a catalyst for production of big vapor clouds. Most drippers now have adjustable air flow control rings to allow the user to adjust the air flow to their liking.
Position of the coils - In all RDAs, the air intake holes can be aligned with the position of the coil, allowing the air flow to pass through the coils as you take a draw. This ensures that the vapor produced by the juice is mixed well with the air, hence enhancing the flavor.
No wicking restrictions - Because you directly drip juice on to the coil and wick, all the juice can freely travel into the coils to be vaporized. Because the wicks and coil is fully saturated when juice is dripped into the RDA, it will produce more flavor and vapor clouds.
Size of the chamber - A smaller chamber allows for more concentration of flavor inside the RDA before it is sucked in from the drip tip. So smaller chamber = better flavor.
Using an RDA is a joy once you have it setup right. I have, in experience, never had a dripper come built with a coil and wick and it will almost always require the user to set up, right out of the box.
Rebuilding requires making your own coil and wicking it. The vape experience you get out of your dripper in entirely dependent on your build. So the most important things to have at hand are kanthal wire and cotton. Apart from this, you would need a couple of tools such as tweezers, scissors, small wire clippers and a screw driver to finally attach the coil on to your dripper's deck. If you are getting started, buying these things might hit your vape budget a bit, but a spool of 50 feet of kanthal and a bag of organic cotton will last you for a long, long time.
For the purpose of keeping this article short, I'm not going to go into the art of building coils. Its just something one master with practice. There are plenty of YouTube videos on coil building for various different models of drippers. So, check them out and remember practice makes perfect. The more you build, the faster and neater your coils will get.
As you do your research on the subject, you discover the many, many types of different coil types (nano coils, twisted coils, macro coils, vertical coils etc) you can build on your RDA, different wicking techniques and sub-ohm vaping.
What I aimed at covering in this article is just a small overview of the world of RDAs and I hope that it helped create a small interest in you to try one. The world of RDAs is a vast one, and there are many areas to explore as you become a more experienced vaper.