RDA, RDTA, RBA, Dripper, Tank, What Does It All Mean?

Posted by Peter Nelson on

Ever been in a room or an online chat with other vapers and they are using abbreviated acronyms, and you wonder what they are on about? 

Well in this blog I will attempt to explain the difference between all of the different types of rebuildable atomisers and what those abbreviations stand for.


Rebuildable Atomiser, is the generic name given to any deck that has a coil that you can fit yourself such the SMOK pictured here. Any atomizer with a build deck can be classes as an RBA.

smok rba coil for ecigarette


Rebuildable Dripping Atomiser. An RBA that has a deck with posts to anchor the coils and provide the contact for the electoral current that heats the coil. An RDA has no tank as such and does not hold any e-liquid. Instead it is designed for you to drip the e-liquid directly onto the coil/wick, usually a cotton wick. Sometimes there is a small well under the deck that holds a small amount if e-liquid. Basically once you soak the cotton, you simply put the cap on and start vaping. 

This type of vaping is favoured by very experienced users mainly because it is believed that this method of vaping produces the smoothest and fullest flavour of any type of tank. The Advken Gorge is a good example of an RDA.

An RDA with a clever and complicated multi coil deck can produce humongous amounts of vapour, especially with coils of very low resistance as low as 0.05 Ohms, allowing you to vape at very high wattage, typically in excess of 100Watts.

advken gorge rda dripper tank for ecigarette


Rebulidable Tank Atomiser. Basically this is an RBA with a tank. Because this is a tank it now comes within TPD laws so has a maximum capacity of 2ml in the UK. Given that it has all the benefits of an RDA in terms of cloud and flavour without having to drip new e-liquid onto the coil every few inhales. Having said that for a real cloud chaser 2ml of e-liquid will not last long at all, so will still have to refill a lot.

vandyvape berserker rta tank for ecigarette mod and eliquid


Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomiser. Probably the most confusing of all the types of RBA. 

Two years ago (as seen above), an RDTA was an rebuildable tank atomizer (RTA) with a deck, posts, chamber cap, and tank, plus an additional assembly (such as a spring-loaded pump operated by pushing down the drip tip) that allowed the user to manually control the flow of e-liquid from the tank to the wicks and coils. Each push on the plunger (drip tip) forced a measured amount of e-liquid to the wicks.

Another name for these early RDTAs was “auto-drippers.” That may seem odd, since the spring-loaded pumps were operated manually, but the “auto” part refers to not having to stop vaping, remove the top cap, and drip e-liquid from a bottle. Dripping was “automated” to make it more convenient, but automated in a manual way.

Those early RDTAs were the rarest type of rebuildable atomizers, and for good reason. They were complex in design and often didn’t work dependably or well. Even when they functioned correctly, whatever may have been gained in convenience was usually offset the loss of simplicity and reliability. In essence, they were too often more trouble than they were worth. As of 2016, only a handful of these “original-style” RDTAs continue to be produced and marketed. They’re mostly relics for the vaping museum.

Recently, however, RDTAs got a facelift and were redefined. Gone were the manually-operated pumps for “auto-dripping.” In their place was a new design for saturating the wicks and delivering e-liquid to the coils.

Starting in late 2015, manufacturers began producing new rebuildable tank atomisers (RTAs) that didn’t use e-liquid “channels” into which the wick ends were placed. Instead, these new vape tanks simply had holes drilled through the deck floor. Wick ends were trimmed to touch the floor of the deck and were saturated as e-liquid was forced up by gravity pressure through the holes in the deck floor.

A second, less objective reason that manufacturers have christened these re-designed tanks as RDTAs involves their supposedly enhanced performance. As noted above, dripping atomizers (RDAs) are considered the pinnacle of pure performance in vaping, so manufacturers are essentially claiming that the tanks they’re labeling as RDTAs offer superior performance over “regular” RTAs. This muddies the waters, since it’s essentially a marketing ploy — the equivalent of letting the foxes guard the hen house.

The first reason — a re-designed e-liquid flow system — may be valid as justification for renaming RTAs as RDTAs; the second reason is clearly bogus. But that’s the reality of the marketplace.


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