First Vaporizer Patent - 1927

How Vaporizers Have Changed in the Last 100 Years


That’s the year the blueprint for the modern vaporizer was submitted to the US Patent Office.

That was nearly 100 years ago!

Inventor Joseph Robinson acknowledged that even before 1927, similar devices had been made but were inadequate because they were too hot to handle safely, they were unsanitary, and also difficult to clean. He further elaborated that the vapors didn’t get delivered efficiently to the person inhaling. He said not enough volume of material was inhaled to allow for the desired effect.

Robinson said his new invention was “so simple that anyone can use it.” Sounds a bit like an old Geico commercial, doesn’t it?

Since then, it’s been a slow and steady path to commercialize and modernize vaporizers. From butane fuel to induction heating, content delivery systems have remained relatively constant, but the technology and the overall experience have gotten infinitely better.

In the Beginning: 500 B.C.

Before we talk about the most recent century, we must first disclose that the concept of vaping is over 2,000 years old. It all started in Egypt, where people would put hemp oil on hot stone plates and inhale the fumes. Then, about a thousand years later, we saw the rise of the hookah in India. Hookahs are still popular today, although they seemed to hit a peak in the early 2000s.

The First Electronic Vaporizers: 1927-1980

After Joseph Robinson’s phallic-looking e-cigarette was awarded the patent, it was another 30 or years or so before anything significant happened. In 1963, Herbert Gilbert made some improvements, including streamlining the design from a rocket ship type of shape to a pen. This is very similar to what some simple vaporizers look like today.

The electronic vaping concept stalled, however, likely because scientists don’t always make the best business people. Notice we said always. There are, of course, exceptions.

When the 1980s rolled around, the concept was explored again, but in the US, the FDA prohibited the use of electronic cigarettes.

A “Global” Revolution: early 1990s

On their side of the world, Europeans were hard at work building vaporizers for medicinal herbs. We think you know what we’re referring to, here. The first herbal vaporizer was invented by a man named Eagle Bill Amato, who at the time, lived in Amsterdam.

His invention was shaped like a globe with a tube attached. It worked by blowing hot air around, just like a convection oven, in a process called conduction. While revolutionary at the time, this device had its issues. Because the conduction heating worked by heating the herbs on a metal plate, the temperature control was erratic. Often, the botanicals combusted and were unusable.

The Volcano: late 1990s

After the first commercially available models didn’t perform as expected, a German company stepped in with the Volcano. This brand of vaporizer is still a leader in the industry, although it’s designed for in-home use and isn’t portable.

As with any genius invention, the knockoffs came fast and furious. Within months of the introduction of the volcano, there were numerous knockoffs. Because they were cheap and poorly made, none of the charlatan competitors managed to gain a foothold, leaving Volcano as the dominant winner.

Still, Volcano’s steep price tag was discouraging for many. Other vaporizers entered the market and were categorized as “box style vaporizers.” They were more reliable than the previous generation of globe-shaped units but less expensive than the Volcano. This was a huge win for vaping enthusiasts.

This period was classified by rapid innovation and experimentation. Manufacturers competed against each other to add features that would allow for a better user experience. Vaporizers also started to come with customizable options. For example, the Extreme Q (which is still around today) allowed you to choose either a whip-style or bag system.

The difference was strictly a matter of preference. Whip-style allows the air to be inhaled from a tube while a bag system involves inhaling from an inflatable bag. The latter is reminiscent of the image you get of someone hyperventilating, though less frantic, of course.

Necessity Leads to Innovation: 2000s

By this time pretty much everyone who wanted a vaporizer had one. There wasn’t any room for new entrants to the market, and the existing competitors found they weren’t able to grow.

The next logical step was to make vaporizers portable. The technology had already been mapped out in the 1920s for a nicotine delivery device, so it logically made sense that the mechanism would work the same for other types of herbs.

Barring the fact that these herbs were universally illegal at the time, at least in the US, there was uncertainty about how these products could be introduced to the marketplace.

That wasn’t the only challenge to overcome. There was also the issue of a power source. The original design from the 1920s required a wall outlet to operate. Considering the goal of the portable vaporizer was to be used outside the home, it was back to the drawing board.

A butane device manufacturer in Ireland made the connection that they could use their knowledge of butane-powered devices to create a portable vaporizer. The company, Iolite, had also figured out a way to get around the danger of inhaling butane.

They used purified butane and ran it through a catalytic converter. If you’re not a mechanic, a catalytic converter “converts” toxic fumes into less toxic ones. They’re known mostly for use in cars, but they were also miniaturized to fit in a portable device.

The Era of Lithium-Ion: 2010s

While butane-powered vaporizers were a major step in the right direction, they weren’t a perfect solution. As lithium-ion batteries became more advanced, manufacturers sought to adopt this technology. They acknowledged that the batteries provided a more dependable energy source as well as precision heat control.

You may have heard some horror stories about lithium-ion batteries. We’ve all seen the news about exploding Teslas and Samsung phones. This might cause some to pause for concern, but for each device that has exploded, there are millions of others that are perfectly safe and functional. Typically, an exploding lithium-ion battery is the result of improper installation at the manufacturer level, not the battery itself.

One of the shortcomings of portable devices was getting the vape quality that was readily available in the home units. A few leading manufacturers invested heavily in producing generation after generation of vaporizers. The companies that have done the best in this arena are the ones who listened to their base of loyal customers and took their suggestions to heart.

Introducing Induction Heat + Aesthetics: 2018

While the technology has come a long way, the pace has been slow. It’s been awhile since something new has been offered to vaping fans.

And while the incumbent leaders have done a standup job of improving heat distribution and flavor experience, there was admittedly a long way to go to improve.

That’s where Loto Labs comes in. We created the world’s first induction heat vaporizer. You’re probably wondering what that even means, and we’ll get to that in a moment. We’re especially proud of all the advantages the Loto Legend vaporizer has over existing products:

  • Pure, thick vapor
  • Superior speed, taste, and impact
  • Energy efficient
  • Rapid heating and cooling with the push of a button
  • Innovative airflow allows for richer and more abundant draws
  • Interchangeable materials: one vaporizer can handle both herb and concentrate

The best way to describe induction heating for vaping is to compare it to a stove that also uses induction heating. If you’ve ever seen or cooked on these stoves, they’re quite an experience! The pan that is on top of the stove gets very hot and cooks the contents of the pan, but the surface of the stove stays cool.

Here’s how it works: an electric current passes through a coil creating an electromagnetic field of energy. The coil never gets hot, so it never breaks, degrades or affects the flavor. Instead, the wick is the source of heat, which allows for more precise heating and no “hot spots.”

The result is a better, cleaner vapor with a precise and controllable heat source that works with magnets. Magic, right?

It’s not just all about form (although that’s important). People also want their vaporizers to look stylish as well as feel comfortable to use. We’ve seen it all over the years. From pens to devices that look like asthma inhalers, flash drives, and old-school pagers, they may be subtle, but they’re certainly not pretty. We think portable vaporizers are meant to be enjoyed, not hidden.

That’s why our team developed the Evoke, which is more beautiful and elegant than anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s still practical, with a flat side that doesn’t roll off the table and a rounded side that fits easily in the palm of your hand. The original inspiration for the design came from the pipe, which used for both ceremonial purposes and status symbols.

Things are Changing for the Better

Humanity has come a long way from the days of throwing plants on hot stones to have a mind-altering experience. And now that states are easing up on legalization, we expect the innovations to continue, even accelerate.

Here at Loto Labs, we look forward to being part of that innovation for years to come.