E-cigarettes are developing at a meteoric pace; in a 2014 survey by Statista, 8% of Americans, roughly 24 million people, reported using them regularly (compare that to just 3% of U.S. population vaping in 2010). One of the companies at the forefront of this growing biz is blu e-cigs, a group that brings tech wizardry to this still nascent business. Think we're blowing smoke? Check below for what the men, women, and machines at blu are up to in their R&D facility (yeah, they have a vaping robots) to see what sets them apart from the e-cig herd.
1. They’ve ditched the “cartridges” for better “tanks”
An e-cigarette is basically two things: a battery and a container that heats a flavored, nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor. In older e-cig designs, the latter part included a small piece of cotton, which would absorb a portion of e-liquid to be vaporized. But cotton always retains some of the e-juice, and makes for inconsistent drags (causing the last few to be harsher). Now, the blu Plus+ product line uses a cotton-less closed-system container called a “tank,” which lets you vape down to the last drop.
2. And they got the actual inventor of the e-cigarette
That's right. Hon Lik, the Chinese pharmacist and inventor of the modern e-cigarette, is now working with blu. Every e-cig on the market today relies on the basic design of his OG prototype from 2003.
3. blu R&D is located in the crucible of cutting-edge, ol' Silicon Valley
This is where the advancement of e-cigarette technology happens. Because e-cigs are such a new invention, the reason for having blu R&D headquartered here is obvious: to tap tech talent. While China is currently churning out tons of different styles of e-cigs, this placement may lend America an edge in the industry that closes the gap.
4. They invented a smoking robot
A problem with a lot of e-cigarettes is they don’t provide a consistent “pull” of vapor when you inhale. To address this, the blu team of engineers invented a “smoking machine,” which we’ve named Rupert. What does Rupert do? He simulates actual human use of an e-cig, puffing over and over and over to ensure quality and durability. That’s just the kind of guy Rupert is.
5. And a voltage-testing robot face
Unlike other battery-powered products, e-cigarettes require a momentary surge of high energy (when the user takes a drag), while they use almost no electricity when not in use. So when blu tested the blu Plus+ e-cig’s voltage, they recreated those conditions in the coolest way possible -- that face right there.
6. They check blu products meticulously
Because vaporization is achieved by heating something (as opposed to combustion, which occurs when you ignite something), a handheld thermal imager tells the engineer if and when the vapor and/or the device is too hot to be comfortable. This dude may as well be Q to your James Bond, and he expects you to bring these e-cigs back in proper working order. Okay, not really, you can keep them.
7. They went through an exhaustive prototype stage
Designers, technicians, and engineers worked tirelessly together to reach their sublime design. When designing their blu Plus+ e-cig, blu’s team made 10 different prototypes before settling on the one that worked exactly as they wanted.
8. They have a dude CONTROLLING THE WEATHER [*thunder sound*]
Well... not exactly. What this little box does is simulate humidity. Basically, it creates conditions of water-thick air, a kind of climatic stress, so you can feel comfortable taking your blu Plus+ anywhere, say from Phoenix to Orlando. On a side note, our condolences if you are traveling from Phoenix to Orlando.
9. The blu Plus+ has miniaturization down to a science (because it is a science)
Turns out the toughest obstacle is space -- you may think e-cigs are big, bulky devices, but the goal at blu is to get the best vaping experience possible out of the smallest device to more closely replicate the feel of a traditional cigarette. Through testing and miniaturizing every component of an e-cig (like that cotton from earlier), blu Plus+ has packed one of the biggest vape punches in one of the smallest packages.
10. And they still pack real power
How much more? The batteries are twice as strong as previous generations of blu products, even as the design has gotten sleeker.
11. They use 3-D printers on the fly
This might look like the fridge you had in college, but it's actually a 3-D printer. This device enables the blu squad to freely tinker with and test a design. For example, their fluid dynamics guy (yeah, they have one of those) had the idea to add more perforations to the mouthpiece of the blu tanks rather than just a single opening. More holes = better airflow. Translation: A bigger yield of vapor. So, with his 3-D printer, this engineer can press a button and BOOM, he's got a real-life version of what was just an idea moments before.