What is Induction Heating?

If you’ve read my Dr. Dabber Switch review then you know that it uses a heating method called induction heating. I gave you a brief overview of what induction heating is in the review, but it’s time to go into a little more detail.

Induction heating works so well on the Switch that I wouldn’t be surprised to see other vaporizers use it in the future. So, it will help if you actually know what induction heating is, how it works, and so on. Don’t worry about things getting too complicated; I’ll keep it as simple as possible.

How Does Induction Heating Work?

Induction heating is a combination of two types of physics: electromagnetism and heat transfer. A power supply sends an alternating current through an inductor, which is usually a copper coil. The rapidly alternating current passing through the coil generates a rapidly alternating magnetic field in the space surrounded by the inductor.

The object—which is called a workpiece—that needs to be heated is placed inside the magnetic field without touching the coil. The workpiece needs to be made of metal because the magnetic field passing through the workpiece creates electric currents, called eddy currents, that heat up the metal.

The eddy currents are the primary heating method but there is a secondary one as well. When ferrous (iron rich) metals are heated via induction, the iron crystals are magnetized and demagnetized over and over again in rapid succession because of the alternating magnetic field. This causes something called hysteresis, which is basically a kind of internal friction, and of course, friction causes heat.

What does Induction Heating have to do with Vaping?

Dr Dabber Switch Ceramic Nail
The nail is heated by the magnetic field generated by the Switch.

Let’s take a look at the Switch to make all this science-y stuff more understandable. You can see the coil, aka the inductor, at the top of the Switch, it’s surrounded by glass to protect it from damage. Glass won’t interfere with the magnetic field so it’s a good choice for protection, now here is what happens:

  1. When the Switch is turned on, its power supply creates a magnetic field in the heating well that is surrounded by the coil.
  2. When the workpiece, which in this case is the nail, is placed inside the coil it heats up via the eddy currents and hysteresis described in the preceding paragraph.
  3. The frequency of the current (i.e. how quickly it alternates) can be adjusted, which in turn adjusts the heating effect of the Switch.
  4. Adjusting the frequency of the current between low and high ranges affects the heating profile. This accounts for the wide range of temperatures available on the Switch.

The Advantages of Induction Heating

Dr Dabber Switch Induction Coil
The coils provide fast, efficient heating via electromagnetism.

There are quite a few of them, let’s take a closer look:

  • It is very fast – the induction method heats up metal very quickly because it is heated from the inside out compared to electrical or flame methods that heat from the outside in.
  • The heating element stays cool – that’s right, since the heat is generated by electromagnetism, the coil never heats up, it is cool to the touch.
  • It is very efficient – since the nail is surrounded by a magnetic field, it gets heated evenly on all sides compared to a nail that is heated from below.
  • Excellent heat control – the temperature control is very accurate because the metal stops heating when removed from the well. Nails heated using other methods take a while to cool down.
  • It uses less energy – Since the heating is so fast and there is no wasted heat, less energy is used. That is why Dr. Dabber claims that the Switch can be used about 150 time before needing a recharge.

The Disadvantages of Induction Heating

Dr Dabber Switch Nail Selection
The inside of the nails are lined with ceramic (left and right) or quartz (middle) but the outside has to be made from metal.

Induction technology is amazing but there some downsides as well:

  • It needs metal to work – Since induction heating generates a magnetic field, only materials that are affected by magnetism can be used.*
  • It’s a very expensive heating method – You saw how much the Switch costs, right? As with any new advanced technology, the price will come down eventually, but for now? Yikes.
  • All that technology takes up a lot of space – Have you seen how big the Switch is? It’s well designed and comfortable to hold, but it is much larger than even the biggest e-nail.

*If you read the Switch review then you might be wondering how the nails can be made from ceramic or quartz if metal is required for induction heating. The answer is that only the inside of each nail is lined with those materials, the outside of each nail is made from a ferrous material. Incidentally, this also brings up another negative for the Switch: its specialized nails are harder to replace than more traditional nails.

Is Induction Heating the Future of Vaping?

As always, it’s hard to predict the future. Induction heating has been around for a while, it is generally used in industrial settings but commercially it is mostly used in stovetops. Induction stovetops are getting more popular but gas and electric stoves are far more common.

We can probably expect the same situation in the vaping world, with electric powered e-nails or flame powered dab rigs being the most common heating methods. Of course flat screen, high definition TVs and Blu-Ray players were once exorbitantly priced as well but now they are very affordable. If the price becomes more manageable, then vaporizers that use induction heating could become more popular as well.

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