Tagline: This article is presented by PCKT, a Bay Area company designing and developing cannabis oil vaporizers that are both stylish and resilient.
Nicholaus Theobald knows good vapor. As a member of a cannabis supply company Oakland Consulting and Packaging Solutions alongside Murray Ruel, Theobald became literally invested in high-quality cartridges. One problem he identified in the industry was that even high-quality distillate cartridges could be sabotaged by a cheap vape battery—especially the now-ubiquitous 510 stick batteries.
“We noticed that the cartridges were breaking when people would drop them, or even sit wrong with one in their pocket,” said Theobald. “One of these carts costs around $50 to $75, depending on the dispensary you get it at. Why would someone want to put that much investment on a cheap, poor quality battery that could fry their cartridge?”
Designed for Discretion
As Theobald saw it, there stick batteries presented two problems. They were conspicuous and unwieldy, but still failed to provide any protection to the cannabis oil cart, which remained exposed and vulnerable. That’s what drove Theobald and his team to develop the PCKT One, a small, discreet vape with a pocket- and palm-friendly design that helps keep cartridges out of harm’s way.
PCKT’s vape batteries are designed specifically to protect often-expensive cartridges. Despite their small size, they wrap completely around a cart like a suit of armor that also feels good to hold. The design decisions in the PCKT go deeper than just look and feel, though. A magnetic adapter prevents the threading from being ripped out, while the battery can last a heavy user a week on one charge. And they’re available in a wide selection of different colors so users can be sure their vaping hardware matches their personal style.
The PCKT One was just the first step, though. A professional designer before he entered the cannabis industry, Theobald is a big believer in iteration—finding designs that work, building them out, and then improving on them in further generations.
The latest result of that iterative process is the PCKT One Plus, which is aimed at a new problem in the cartridge space—even with standard 510 threading, one size does not necessarily fit all. As the team worked to build the PCKT One Plus, their challenge was to get the best possible performance from a wide variety of cartridges.
That started with a larger chamber that could provide full, wraparound protection for even larger cartridges, as well as a boost to the power capacity that Theobald says can likely run through multiple carts without a recharge. He credits his roots and connections in the Bay Area cannabis industry as key to making a well-crafted product, since PCKT can pass around prototypes to people in the know and get their insights before landing on a final design.
“We came out with two designs and we made a couple different prototypes of those two designs,” says Theobald of the PCKT One’s design process. “And then I shopped them around to the different people that I make distillate for and had them sample it, and then we took their feedback.”
The prototype process starts at PCKT’s Bay Area offices, where they use their own machinery and 3D printer to make early prototypes. Then Theobald brings the samples and files into a dedicated factory in China owned by PCKT and sits down with their team of engineers to pick the design apart and iron out wrinkles and bugs.
“We have a lot of products in the pipeline, but we want to make sure that they’re quality before they come out,” says Theobald. “Generally, our products take about one year in the making before they’re released so everything is to our standard.”
These resources help make the move from prototype to product both agile and hands-on for PCKT says Theobald, who visits the site every few months to keep his eye on how things are moving. And the close relationship between design and manufacturing provides PCKT’s team with luxurious resources, including full-time staff dedicated to the RCKT chip that helps manage power delivery and improve battery life.
The Right Hit, Every Time
Why do PCKT vaporizers need their own proprietary chip? The right chip can make a world of difference in the quality of a hit by making sure the power output is appropriate for each individual cartridge—something that tobacco vapers with high-end mods already know all about.
“The RCKT chip analyzes each cartridge to identify the ohms, or the resistance, of the coil it’s using. Then it automatically adjusts the wattage accordingly to provide a satisfying puff every time,” says Theobald. “Reading the cartridge accurately and responding to those readings took a lot of work, but it was worth it to bring this ability to cannabis vaping. It’s something e-cig makers are very good at, but we haven’t really seen it in cannabis oil vapes yet.”
PCKT also prioritized controlling the form factor of that tech, as keeping the chip small was key to maintaining the pocket-sized experience they want to deliver customers.
What’s New and What’s Next
Lately, the PCKT team is taking what they’ve learned from batteries and distillate and applying those hard-won lessons to the world of cartridges. The SPRK is a refillable cartridge that allows you to vape whatever cannabis oil you want (subject to local regulations, of course).
It’s designed especially for the PCKT, so it pops right in without the magnetic adapter, although a 510 threaded version for use with other batteries is coming soon. The SPRK features a ceramic coil for even heating and introduces a special workaround for a common cartridge headache.
“We have to airway chambers inside,” explains Theobald. “So if one of them gets clogged by your oil, which is a common problem, there’s a second chamber there that will be open.”
Also in the PCKT production pipeline is a dry herb vape that maintains the high performance and small form factor of PCKT’s vape batteries. Right now, says Theobald, what they’re really trying to crack is an even heating element that doesn’t sacrifice any bud. The real challenge, though, is developing a powerful enough battery to handle the needs of a dry herb device in the slim format of a PCKT product.
“A lot of the dry herb vapes on the market, you maybe get four, five uses before you have to recharge the battery,” says Theobald. “We’re confident we can develop a product around a high-capacity battery that lasts longer than most of the current entries in the market.”