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Vape-Jet 2021 Company Review

New Year, New Goals 

As we ring in the new year with our friends and families, we wanted to look back at our achievements last year and look forward to some hopes for Vape-Jet in 2022. After all, what’s a new year without new resolutions?  

We recognize that 2021 had its share of… difficult moments. But in those difficult moments (often, despite them), we managed to grow together. Last year, our company experienced some unprecedented successes. We want to share some of these achievements, not to gloat or become passive in our mission, but to emphasize the decisions that got us here and the people who make us who we are. Who knows, maybe we’ll even reveal something coming for 2022.  

Letter from Vape-Jet CEO Ryan Hoitt 

I am proud to report that 2021 was another excellent year for the Vape-Jet team. Despite a global pandemic, fire storms, ice storms, a heat dome, and ships blocking the Suez, we have continued to innovate and improve by releasing new products, streamlining our operations, increasing our market share, and demonstrating what world-class product support looks like.   

To start 2021 off strong, we released the Jet-Fueler 2.0 Semi-Automatic Vape Cartridge-Filling Machine. Representing a complete overhaul of electronics, software, and structural components from the previous model, the Jet-Fueler 2.0 forced us to reevaluate and expand our manufacturing methods and materials. These manufacturing improvements complemented incremental upgrades to the Vape-Jet 3.0 Fully-Automatic Vape Cartridge-Filling Machine made throughout the year.  

By mid-year, the team was forging ahead, working with customers who wanted an end-to-end cartridge filling and capping solution that boasted the same quality and industry-leading customer support as our other solutions. Even though global logistics nearly came to a halt in the middle of production, we brought our new Squish-o-Matic 1000 vape cartridge-capping machine to market. 

Of course, Vape-Jet is not just a hardware company. Our dedication to clean code, behavior-driven development, agile methodologies, and microservice architecture shows that we are nothing without the incredible software which drives our powerful vape cartridge-filling machines. One example of our ongoing efforts to improve our software over the last year included reducing the time between customer feature requests and software implementation to mere days. Following this improvement, we applied wizard-based, interactive SOPs (standard operating procedures) to our automated filling systems and overhauled the GUI (graphical user interface) on both the Jet-Fueler and Vape-Jet. You can find these step-by-step SOPs in all our recent updates. 

As we look forward to 2022, we might reflect on the lessons 2021 taught us. Just as ‘no person is an island entire of itself,’ the past year showed us that manufacturing infrastructure and the global supply chain are fragile. While our company was affected like everyone else, the pain would have been worse had we not insisted on strong U.S.-based manufacturing partnerships and found ways to improve (and maintain) safe production standards. I believe our success in 2021 is a testament to our team’s vision, execution, and ability to thrive during uncertain times. 

We are looking forward to a bright and prosperous 2022 with all our friends within the industry and without.

Cheers to you and yours, 

Ryan Hoitt, CEO 

2021 Financial Growth with Vape-Jet CFO Brian Kuo 

When we founded Vape-Jet, we knew we wanted to grow organically and buck the trend of institutional backing. Having identified a lack of innovation in a space that had grown stale with retrofits and dated equipment, our mission has been to grow alongside our customers, assembling a diverse team, making heavy investments in R&D, and emphasizing local manufacturing, assembly, and support. 

Entering 2022, I am pleased to report that we are succeeding in our mission. The quality of our products has instilled new life into vape cartridge production, and our team has grown bigger and stronger.  

Therefore, as we raise our glasses to a new year, I want to take a moment and reflect on some of our accomplishments: 

  • In 2021, our YOY (year-over-year) revenue grew by more than 200%*  
  • We were profitable and cash flow positive in both 2020 and 2021, with an approximate 350% growth in profitability YOY in 2021* 
  • We have simultaneously increased our total assets by more than 240% while decreasing liabilities by ~19%* 
  • We gave our team a profit share bonus, matching retirement plan, and full health benefits  
  • We added a new dedicated product support technician and developed in-depth HelpDesk documentation (with video documentation to follow in 2022) 
In 2021 Vape Jet year-over-year revenue grew by more than 200%
In 2021 Vape-Jet had an approximate 350% growth in profitability

What has this success taught us? For one, we will continue innovating and adding value for our clients in the year ahead by reinvesting our profits into R&D. We will also continue investing in our people, growing our team, and expanding our operation organically. In short, we will use our exceptional results from 2021 as motivation to better serve our customers. 

So, although I hope for more global stability in 2022, I can’t wait to see how much value we can create in this promising new year! 

Brian Kuo, CFO 

*Financial data for illustration purposes only, not to be relied on for investments and not for assurance purposes. 

Operations Growth in 2021 

As Brian noted, we’ve welcomed many new faces to the Vape-Jet crew this past year. In fact, we’ve increased our number of full-time employees by 250%. By adding manufacturing and support technicians—not to mention a new engineer—we’ve effectively doubled our sales capacity while also doubling our software development team. With all this “doubling” going on, we decided to increase our manufacturing capabilities too, expanding into two new facilities and adding over 3,400 square feet of production floor space. To make better use of these new spaces and faces, we also increased our inventory buffers by triple in key areas. With this operational capacity and inventory surplus, we are well-positioned in 2022 and beyond. 

Vape-Jet increased our number of full-time employees by 250% in 2021.

2022 Vape-Jet Growth Goals 

In the spirit of the new year, here are our “Big 3” resolutions: 

  • Maintain our dedication to post-sales support by increasing accessibility with more written and video resources, troubleshooting guides, in-application assistance programs, and software-based SOPs. 
  • Stick to our innovative roots with continued software and hardware improvements. 
  • Scale with our customers by adding operational capacity and maintaining inventory buffers

But what about product releases or upgrades? At Vape-Jet, we don’t like to talk about new stuff until it’s ready, but it’s an exciting new year (and we like to keep the energy up), so stay tuned for a major announcement in the weeks ahead. Can’t wait that long? Well, get ready for a software upgrade that will greatly increase the speed of all existing machines in the Vape-Jet fleet.

More details to come, but for now, enjoy this sneak peek: 

To the future, 

The Vape-Jet Crew 

Get Ready

You won’t want to be out of the loop for this one, so sign up for our monthly Re:Fill newsletter and get early access to company updates, product releases, and other exciting announcements. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for real-time updates. 

Categories
Automation

Is Vape Cartridge Filling Automation Worth It? Part Two

Investment Analysis

Investing in Automation: A Technical Perspective 

Businesses understand the importance of sustainable growth, but allocating investment capital can be a difficult process. At Vape-Jet, we believe in approaching these decisions from every angle with the best possible information.  

In our previous article, “Investment Analysis: Is Vape Cartridge Filling Automation Worth It? (Part One)” Director of Sales Josh Maramba and CFO Brian Kuo outlined several key marketing and financial questions to consider during automation investment analysis. Although these questions are vital to new process considerations, they are only one part of your assessment.  

With the help of COO Devon Reid and CEO Ryan Hoitt, this article expands on the technical considerations of your investment, showing how Vape-Jet’s technology reduces bottlenecks and labor costs while allowing you to reallocate resources and establish long-term security.  

Chemistry and Workflow Considerations with Devon Reid

Although the mere mention of chemistry might give some business owners a migraine, resident chemist, engineer, and COO Devon Reid is here to simplify the implications of chemistry and workflow for growing businesses.  

According to Devon, when manufacturing cannabis products, bottlenecks begin at the point of extraction and compound through the process to obtain finished goods.

Unrefined vs Refined Workflow Comparison
Unrefined vs Refined Workflow Comparison

“[The] quality of finished goods flows from upstream processes,” Devon says. While unrefined products are less capital intensive, refined products “yield a more consistent end-product.”  

“If formulation, filling, and packaging bottlenecks are roughly analogous for both workflows,” Devon says, “the major exception lies in the filling of unrefined products.” Filling with a refined product is more consistent because “extraction impurities are removed, and formulation with pure terpenes is precise.” On the other hand, “unrefined products are susceptible to bubbling upon filling, due to impurities and uncontrolled percentages of terpenes.”  

As a result, refined distillate fills faster than unrefined product, while “unrefined workflows generally require more time to produce a product that can be filled.” For example, unrefined products like rosin are labor-intensive to extract, time-intensive to prepare for filling, and slower to fill.   

Unrefined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison
Unrefined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison
Refined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison
Refined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison

The solution demands a machine that can react to these highly variable products and workflows. Lucky for us, Devon has spent 10 years developing high-tech automated equipment to eliminate such bottlenecks. He affirms that “automation at any step of either workflow will alleviate bottlenecks and result in a more consistent product.”

Even though unrefined and refined workflows vary from place to place, Vape-Jet’s vape cartridge filling automation technology increases efficiency while decreasing variability, representing a reduction in bottlenecks across the board. With Vape-Jet equipment that you can “set-and-forget,” you can even reallocate labor to other tasks, boosting productivity without increasing labor costs.  

Technical Considerations with Ryan Hoitt

When it comes to investments in new technology, CEO and developer Ryan Hoitt identifies three critical factors to consider: the hidden costs of automation, data collection and compliance, and the rigidity of new machines. 

Reducing the Hidden Costs of Automation

The first hidden cost of automation lies in the training process. The cost of training personnel on complex mechanical automation machines can be high. However, Vape-Jet overcomes this hidden cost “by building the operating procedure into the user interface,” Ryan explains, “users always have the most up-to-date reference information available immediately, lessening the need for extensive training.”  

Secondly, machine adjustments and worker changes lead to slowdowns in the production process. With most machines, Ryan notes, moving between SKUs can be costly and require operator institutional—or legacy—knowledge. If that employee leaves, the company is at risk of losing that knowledge. “With Vape-Jet’s saved profiles, changing between active configurations only takes a few clicks and requires no physical machine interventions.”  

Finally, a prevalent but often ignored cost of automation is equipment maintenance. What happens when something goes wrong with your machine? Can you rely on vendor support? Will getting replacement parts add downtime and negatively affect your production output? “At Vape-Jet, we offer dedicated industry-leading product support with same-day response times and overnight shipping as standard in our support contracts.”

Data Compliance and Collection

With industry compliance needs constantly changing, it is essential to manufacture your products with compliant hardware. Powered by data reporting software, safe fluid paths, and clean-in-place procedures, Vape-Jet exceeds industry standards giving you peace of mind in the face of compliance changes.  

Because manual data collection is “costly and unreliable,” Ryan highlights the importance of computerized data systems. The software in our Vape-Jet collects data from “automated points of inspection, then feeds that data to external systems, with labor cost reductions and increased accuracy.” With this cutting-edge software, you can integrate our automation equipment with your ERP system.  

Machine Rigidity 

Ryan encourages companies to distinguish between flexible and rigid automation. “Heavy investment into single-purpose machines which require extensive adjustments or retrofits to work with evolving product lines can trap you into a cycle of non-innovation.” Instead, flexible machines with remotely updatable software “will always win against rigid designs especially as SKUs and consumer needs evolve.”  

In short, Ryan summarizes, “in a world of rapid technological change, highly specialized automation just doesn’t make sense.” Rather than curtailing innovation and making your business less agile with rigid automation technology, isn’t it better to invest in a machine that can update itself?   

Invest in the Future of Vape Cartridge Filling Automation

With any automation technology comes new opportunities for reducing operating and labor costs, but Vape-Jet machines aren’t just any automation technology. We believe that filling a vape cartridge ought to be as dependable and intuitive as possible.   

With state-of-the-art hardware, unparalleled customer service, and innovative software, our equipment stands alone. Our flexible fully-automatic and semi-automatic machines are designed to complement any workflow and bolster your business for the future.  

Fill smarter than your competitors by investing in high-quality automated equipment from the start. Reach out to our team for a consultation to see if our automation solutions are the right fit for your new production facility or process. 

Categories
Automation

Is Vape Cartridge Filling Automation Worth It? Part One

Investment Analysis

Let’s face it: automation can be intimidating. Representing a movement away from established procedures to something new, the shift to automated machines can be empowering and frightening at the same time. The reality is, whether you are ramping up production or building a brand-new facility, automation technology accelerates the growth of your vape cartridge filling production by standardizing processes, reducing variability, and scaling to meet market demand.  

Although investing in a new piece of equipment can seem daunting, it is important to ask the same questions you would about any other investment: What is my potential return on this investment? How does this equipment increase my workflow efficiency? Does this technology prepare my company for the future?  

At Vape-Jet, we’ve built our products in response to these questions.  

By working through investment considerations with two senior members of our team, we’d like to share how Vape-Jet machines can not only strengthen your business today, but inspire an ambitious and promising future for your company. 

Sales and Marketing Considerations with Josh Maramba

When it comes to quality assurance, what is the cost of short-term thinking? Director of Sales, Josh Maramba, says that some companies, especially early on, overlook the importance of consistency and scaling.  

“During the early stages of their business, some customers are confident that their operators could fill cartridges fast enough by hand and question whether an automated system would make sense.” 

“Even if they matched the filling speed of an automated system,” Josh says, “they would still need to contend with a significantly higher error rate.”  

Ultimately, there is much at stake when implementing a manual filling process. Underfilling leads to bad customer experiences and overfilling means wasted product. By upgrading to an automated system and standardizing processes early, businesses can foster better customer experiences and reduce product loss.  

Purchasing a lower-end automatic filling system is another common short-term oversight Josh stresses. “Sadly, many of our customers come to us only after purchasing a lower quality system and having a terrible experience with inconsistent filling and extremely poor technical support.” 

Josh has heard countless stories from customers detailing how the inconsistency of their old filling systems required them to refill cartridges by hand. “Even though purchasing a lower quality system may save some short-term money,” Josh says, “it often leads to costly problems.”  

With the Vape-Jet, we’ve reduced fill variability to ±0.25%, far outpacing our closest competitor’s ±2.5%, not to mention the inconsistency of hand-filling. Investing in a high-quality automatic system enables you to accommodate for both the short-term and the long-term. Vape-Jet semi- and fully-automatic filling systems have the lowest operating cost of any system, allowing for more flexible and leaner manufacturing operations; you’ll be spared from costly headaches, and able to scale your business while maintaining a dedicated customer base. 

Repeatability Cost comparison of Vape-Jet (0.25%) vs competitors (2.5%)
Repeatability Cost Comparison of Vape-Jet (0.25%) and Closest Competitor (2.5%)
Operating Cost comparison per cartridge of hand fill, jig-load and Vape-Jet
Operating Cost Comparison Per Cartridge of Hand Fill, Jig-Load and Vape-Jet

Financial Considerations with Brian Kuo

With over 15 years of experience in finance, CFO Brian Kuo understands that financial decisions regarding automation can be overwhelming. “Any large capital expenditure can be intimidating, and when a company is investing in filling automation, the financial decision-makers need to spend adequate time analyzing their options.”  

Stressing the significance of this investment analysis period, Brian suggests asking several questions: 

  • What is the return on investment of using human labor vs. automation?  
  • Is full automation necessary, or are we still in a phase where semi-automatic solutions are sufficient? Are there pathways to scale up with semi- and fully-automatic solutions?  
  • What are the risks of a stop in production? Does an automated vape cartridge filling machine attenuate that risk?  
  • How valuable is obtaining data on our operation? Can we reasonably collect data using human labor?  
  • Are there health risks with using only human labor that can be quantified (such as injury/insurance)? What are the safety risks and potential costs with an automated machine?  
  • How valuable is having outside resources and customer service to assist with our automation? How much would it cost us if we tried to contract with engineers to do it on our own?  

As Brian notes, there are numerous considerations when it comes to automation. Yet, with each question comes the opportunity to streamline processes, improve reliability, and increase the scale of your production.  

For an in-depth look at the unit economics and differences between manual and automatic vape cartridge filling, check out our blog post “Why are There so Many People“.

Vape Cartridge Filling Automation: An Investment Worth Making

So, to automate or not to automate? The decision comes down to where you see your business in the future. Delaying investment in vape cartridge filling automation may seem like a prudent financial decision in the short term, but the long-term costs of waiting can negatively impact several aspects of your business. 

But this is only half the story. In part two of our investment analysis series COO Devon Reid and CEO Ryan Hoitt explain how workflow bottlenecks, data collection, and machine rigidity are critical considerations for your investment analysis. 

Fill smarter than your competitors by investing in high-quality automated equipment from the start. Reach out to our team for a consultation to see if our automation solutions are the right fit for your new production facility or process. 

Categories
Events

MJBizCon 2021: Vape-Jet Has Entered the Game

Two years ago our exec team showed up to MJBizCon 2019 in our signature hoodies with brochures in their pockets and high hopes. They networked while walking the expo floor and met with potential partners and customers offsite to establish working relationships and promote the only machine we had in production at that time; the Vape-Jet 2.0 fully-automatic filling machine.


Fast forward two years through a vaping crisis and a global pandemic to MJBizCon 2021. This year our team arrived on the expo floor with a dedicated booth, a new semi-automatic filling machine (Jet Fueler 2.0), an upgraded fully-automatic filling machine (Vape-Jet 3.0), a brand new automatic capping machine (Squish-o-Matic 1000), and our same signature hoodies. (Plus a few gold doge coins in our pockets.)

Vape-Jet Exec Team 2019 and 2021: Brian Kuo – CFO, Ryan Hoitt – CEO, Devon Reid – COO
Standard Currency at Vape-Jet

This year our crew was able to connect with hundreds of attendees looking for affordable automation solutions in the face of a nationwide labor shortage, economic inflation, and supply chain disruptions. Those we spoke to were looking for solutions to their production challenges that provided low labor costs, increased workflow efficiency, and allowed them to adapt to different cartridge types as the availability of their usual hardware has become less reliable in recent months. At Vape-Jet we pride ourselves on our ability to innovate, adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of our customers. All traits that have become increasingly important during a period where “unprecedented times” have become the norm.

Devon Reid Talking Through the Benefits of the Machine Vision Feature of the Vape-Jet Fully-Automatic Filling Machine
Vape-Jet Booth and a Visit from Nate with N.B.Oler

As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve expanded our network of partners.

Amongst these are brands like Arcane Aromatics, a new-to-market supplier offering botanical terpene blends, hemp botanical extracts, and hemp + botanical terpene blends available at prices you won’t find elsewhere. If you visited our booth at the convention, you likely would have picked up on the scent of Arcane’s samples before you even saw our team as these aromatic creations were impossible to miss. Visit ArcaneAromatics.com to learn more about their pre-launch catalog and get early access to their product line. (Pro Tip: Arcane offers partner pricing for current and new Vape-Jet customers for orders of 60mL through 1L.)

Grant of Arcane Aromatics Discussing Their Pre-Launch Catalog
A Peek at Arcane Aromatics’ Botanical Terpene Blends

Also on display at MJBizCon were products from Advanced Vapor Devices (AVD) who produce a variety of the highest quality vape hardware. All AVD products work seamlessly with the Vape-Jet and Jet Fueler filling machines, as well as the Squish-o-Matic 1000 capping machine. For oil brands and processors AVD offers a test hardware kit that includes cartridges, disposables and batteries at no cost. Learn more at AVD710.com.

Vape-Jet 3.0 Demoing Dry Runs with AVD Cartridges
The AVD Social Media Team Stopped by for a Quick Interview with CEO Ryan Hoitt

Another excellent hardware manufacturing partner present on the expo floor was the team at BeGreen Supply. They offer custom engineered and branded cannabis hardware and packaging solutions that can be filled with our automatic filling machines. BeGreen shares the Vape-Jet perspective that your brand “deserves the ability to react to shifts in market and customer demand” and offer custom branded hardware in 30 days or less allowing production to stay agile and flexible. Learn more at BeGreenSupply.com

The Jet Fueler 2.0 and a Variety of Compatible Cartridges Including BeGreen Supply

In addition to our partners in manufacturing and suppliers our team met with several current customers who had great feedback on their experience with our products. Recently our customer Alex of Dime Industries (CA) told us “The Jet Fueler speaks for itself. There’s not another machine on the market that will last a million fills with no maintenance.”

The Jet Fueler 2.0 Demo Unit on Display
A Variety of Compatible Cartridges by AVD, Ilo and More

If you stopped by our booth during the show you may have met another one of our customers, James of Natural Roots Extracts (OR) who remains one of our most loyal customers having used every variation of our machines from Vape-Jet 1.0 and Jet Fueler 1.0 up to our latest iterations. He was also one of the original test users of our new automatic capping machine and is credited with coming up with the official name, Squish-o-Matic 1000. James recently said “The Vape-Jet 3.0 has really blown my mind. The improvement to our workflow has been literally life-changing.” We’re glad he was able to attend the show and share his experience and expertise with anyone interested in our filling and capping solutions.

James of Natural Roots Extracts Discussing Cartridge Styles
James’ Vape-Jet 3.0 Unit Performing Dry Runs During the Show

All in all MJBizCon 2021 was a major success for the Vape-Jet team and a clear reflection of how far we have grown since hitting the expo floor in 2019. Thank you to everyone on the team who made this show possible. We’ll see you all again in 2022!

The Vape-Jet Booth
Brian Kuo – CFO, Ryan Hoitt – CEO, Sawyer Sheppard – Sales Rep
Two Legends Meet: Tommy Chong and Brian Kuo
Squish-o-Matic 1000 on Display
Until next year!
Categories
Vape Hardware

Vape Cartridges: History & Future

Vaping has been around for longer than you think, and their use case has morphed drastically from decreasing nicotine consumption to indulging in cannabis products. As the hysteria caused by lack of facts and misinformation from the recent EVALI crisis subsides – vape cartridges are slated for increased demand as the cannabis industry continues to rev its powerful engine.

There’s no better time than now to incorporate industry-leading automated vape cartridge filling technology to reap the benefits of tomorrow. Read along to understand how to scale up your vape cartridge production process to effectively reduce overhead and increase revenue, while improving consumer safety and quality control. 

The History of Vape Cartridges

Before vape cartridges existed as we know them today –  they were first a concept that was drawn up by Joseph Robinson in the 1930s. Although it’s unknown whether he created a  prototype – he is credited as the first person to come up with the idea.

From that point onward, many iterations of vaping devices came and went. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that vaping became a commercial success – thanks to the invention of the vape cartridge. However, all of these products were geared towards nicotine consumption in the form of e-cigarettes. [1]

As we fast-forward through time, vaping became a rapidly rising trend as of 2011 with over 7-million users. It’s since ballooned to over 41-million users as of 2018. [2]

It’s likely that the dramatic rise in use is the culmination of new and more reliable vape products and the convenience of the vape cartridge as a consumption device. Vape devices are unmatched in consumer preference when it comes to form-factor and ease of use.

The Modern-Day Vape Cartridge

Currently, vape cartridges can be filled with any type of oil – whether it’s THC, CBD, or nicotine-based. These oils should be produced according to regulations that demand safe production practices and ingredients. However, as evidenced by the recent EVALI crisis, shortcuts taken during the product formulation stage can have dire results.

Aside from the vape oil itself – vaping hardware and filling techniques are the most widely scrutinized aspects of vape cartridges. The reason behind this is due to the prevalence of the black market that continues to distribute faulty and ill-equipped vaping cartridges, or utilize filling processes that expose the oil to toxic materials. Poor handling techniques during the filling process can lead to product contamination, illness, and in severe cases injury and death. 

The vaping scandal of 2019 was the result of the black market selling tainted THC vape cartridges, which is widely believed to be the compound vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E was used to ‘cut’ the THC distillate, reducing the potency and reducing production costs.[3]

Since the EVALI crisis, the FDA and federal regulators have tightened their grip on the vaping industry, which means everything if your business incorporates or produces vape products.

A Growing Demand Despite Hesitations

According to Grand View Research, a leading market analysis group, the vape industry is slated to reach over $67 billion by 2027. The vape industry, which is tied with both the tobacco and cannabis industry, is currently worth $12 billion as of 2019. [5]

Global Vape Cartridge Users by Year
Source: Euromonitor Internationl via BBC

While the EVALI health crisis caused a public perception hit to the perceived safety of the vape cartridge, it is a good idea to remember why consumers chose them in the first place. While those using personal vaporizer devices for nicotine consumption list health and safety as their primary motivating factor in purchasing decisions, those consumers consuming cannabis and hemp derived products overwhelmingly select them for convenience and form-factor, not perceived health effects.

As consumer confidence rebounds, and proper QA techniques are adopted, the potential is sky-high for your vape-based businesses. 

What Does This Mean for Your Business?

With increased regulations and rapidly rising demand – your vape business is staring directly at the crossroads. How will you incorporate heightened quality control checks while managing the pressure of increasing demand?

The answer lies in consolidation and scalability. However, the idea of revamping your entire production process may sound daunting and, quite frankly, difficult to incorporate.

However, consolidation and scalability are accomplished with the help of automation. Automation can take many forms, but typically when we think of automation we think of production and manufacturing devices such as the Vape Jet automatic distillate cartridge filling machine.

The process of filling and checking the quality of vape cartridges is incredibly time-consuming when done manually. However, automated systems, such as the Vape Jet, incorporate a pharmaceutical-grade fluid handling system and advanced machine vision alignment capabilities. 

With the use of an automated vape cartridge filler, multiple tasks are accomplished effectively and up to regulatory standards. By using a vape cartridge filler for co2, rosin, or distillate, your business can quickly consolidate resources and scale accordingly to the demands of the market.

No longer will your business suffer from the love-hate relationship of increased demand. Instead, an automated vape cartridge filler will streamline the production process while simultaneously ensuring quality control. 

Vape Cartridge Users Projections
Source: Grand View Research

Reduce Your Overhead Through Automation

If you have yet to incorporate automation into your vape business – you’re likely paying more than you have to. Without automation, your payroll is dedicated to individuals who are hard-capped as to the number of vape cartridges they can fill per day.

Automation opens the horizon to thousands of vape cartridges filled per day in comparison. This means that you’ll never miss out on a large order because you aren’t producing at scale. Instead, your clients will never lose confidence in your company’s ability to generate any amount of vape cartridges – at any time.

The result of producing products at scale is that you’ll never miss a profitable opportunity. Furthermore, your overhead will plummet as you incorporate automation into your oil cartridge filling process. 

Let’s take a look at how your business can reduce overhead while increasing revenue with Vape Jet.

  • Reduce labor cost
  • Increase production of vape cartridges
  • Decrease the cost of each vape cartridge
  • Reduce overall operational cost
  • Decrease the number of wasted cartridges
  • Find defective cartridges before the filling process

As you can see, the Vape Jet system single-handedly reduces the need for a large workforce while simultaneously increasing output. Overall, the Vape Jet system consolidates your entire vape cartridge filling workforce under a single automated machine. In other words – pure efficiency

Distillate Vape Cartridges
Distillate Vape Cartridges from Highland Provisions filled with Vape-Jet

Further Reading

Categories
Vape Hardware

Vape Hardware Safety Concerns for Your Business

Beginning in June 2019, doctors in a small city of Wisconsin noticed a sudden rise in lung-related illnesses. Each of the cases was similar, yet they did not follow the same path of other documented lung illnesses, such as pneumonia. This was something new – and they were right.

Vape Cartridges and Cannabis Extracts

After 54 deaths and over 2,400 people sent to the hospital, federal authorities and researchers honed in on the culprit – vitamin E acetate.(1) More importantly, it was found that this compound tested positive in illicit THC vape products that were purchased on the street or via online shops.

The vape industry for cannabis and tobacco products came to a screeching halt. What was once a multi-billion dollar sector was now poised for a complete collapse as legislators and lawmakers began pointing fingers as the vape scare raged on.

However, once the CDC pinpointed the cause of the outbreak and concluded that illicit manufacturers were to blame, the vape industry is experiencing a rise to its former heights – and beyond.

However, the latest vape scare came with a price. The industry must collectively change to ensure compliance with state and federal regulators. Aside from the vape product itself, vape hardware must change to keep consumers safe and to keep your business out of the iron-sights of regulators.

If you own a cannabis extraction facility or manage a vape production facility – read along.

Get Your Cartridges Tested

Testing THC vape carts for heavy metal contaminants such as lead.

There’s no better time than now to get your cartridges tested to ensure that your vape company remains in compliance with regulations. Unless your business has the capacity to do quality control checks in-house, then you’ll need the help of a third-party to ensure your cartridges are free of contaminants and are faultless. 

Not only does it mean a better and safer experience for the end-user, but it also reduces the instance of returns/recalls. By reducing the rate of returns, your business will turn a quicker profit.
The balance of regulation, client satisfaction, and consumer safety is met by having your cartridges tested.

Enhance Quality Control Measures

Quality control is beyond necessary across every manufacturing channel. From the tiniest screw to an intricate piece of hardware – everything must undergo a safety test that meets specific standards.

The standards for the vape industry are continuously changing, however, regulators all agree that they want to ensure that vape manufacturers are producing clean cannabis extracts without additives into cartridges that work.

There have been many instances where vape cartridges break, leak, or overheat prematurely. The time is now to step up your cartridge safety before you’re forced to.

Upgrade Your Vape Cartridge Hardware

Vape Cartridges and Pods Filled with Oil

The vape scare left many consumers and regulators on the edge of their seats. Although the vast majority of vape products were legitimate and untainted by vitamin E acetate – the damage was done.

Upgrading your vape products with enhanced hardware is an incredible way to recapture the confidence that so many vape companies once enjoyed. As a business owner or manager of a cannabis extraction facility, you want to ensure your product is enjoyed safely and carried by legal marijuana dispensaries.

If consumers are weary of your product because they contain “old” parts, then you may see a drastic drop in sales. Any business-minded individual knows that change is necessary, and we’re currently in a transitional phase.

Switch to Tamper-Proof Mouthpieces

Aside from keeping your clients happy and the end-user absolutely safe – what about from a legal standpoint?

The revelation from the CDC spurred the FDA to come down hard on all vape companies – not just those related to cannabis.

One of the most notable changes from the FDA is that from this point on, all vape companies must comply with preventing access by minors. (2)

If you’re wondering how you can prevent minors from accessing vape cartridges filled with potent THC, it’s through the use of press-fit mouthpieces that are entirely tamper-proof. The overall vape industry is quickly moving away from twist-top mouthpieces and transitioning to the press-fit design because it prevents content exposure.

Once a manufacturer installs the press-fit mouthpiece, the end-user cannot remove it. This is seen as a child-safe and tamper-proof method that complies entirely with the wishes of the FDA.

Furthermore, this method stops end-users from removing the mouthpiece easily to add additional ingredients into the vape product. In other words, the press-fit design is a protective measure for end-users and for your business.

The last thing your cannabis extraction or vape company needs is a sudden report that your product made someone sick – although they added additional “flavorings” to the cannabis extract.

The Success of Your Business Relies on Compliance

Compliance is essential to a successful vape cartridge company.

Ultimately, the vape scare has changed the cannabis extraction and vape industry forever. Some may argue that it was better before; however, the end result is a focus on consumer safety.

Overall, upgrading your vape hardware should be seen in a positive light because it only adds to your company’s value. Legal cannabis dispensaries were also affected by the vape scare heavily. Therefore, it only makes sense that they will want to only carry safe, reliable, and high-quality vape cartridges that are made from compliant hardware.

With the help of a few uncomplicated hardware upgrades for your cannabis or vape business, you’ll find success quickly by staying ahead of the curve.

Categories
Vape Hardware

Why are There so Many People?

It was 2016 when I found myself walking through a cannabis extraction lab. It was my first experience behind the scenes of the nascent legal cannabis industry, and I vividly recall my intense fascination surrounding the inner workings of this new world. 

The science and technical aspects of the production process captivated me. The extraction company finished giving me their grand tour, and I’ll admit, I was left in a daze after all that I had seen. Of course, this made them even more proud of what they had accomplished.

However, remembering the purpose for my visit, I rose to my position and asked

“Why are there so many people working on filling these cartridges?”

Aside from the myriad of otherworldly devices that move concentrated liquid from one container to another, I noticed the multitude of workers doing the same monotonous job. Countless individuals were filling cartridges with a cannabis concentrate. Peering at each of them, you could see many different attitudes – some of which were making jokes while others looked entirely frustrated.

It was at that moment that I realized there was a glaring problem with this cannabis extraction facility. It was my job to find inefficiencies – and find them I did. My mind began to race, and I saw clearly that the nascent legal cannabis industry was still experiencing crucial growing pains. How could a multi-billion dollar industry even allow a handful of employees to hand-fill cartridges? 

Immediately, I resolved that, as an individual that strives to create efficiency, that automation was the key. Without it, cannabis extraction facilities like this would be left behind as others would implement it. 

It was from that moment that automation in the cannabis industry became my primary focal point. 

The main idea behind automation is to increase efficiency while reducing manual labor time. Although it sounds simple, many companies in the legal cannabis sector have yet to implement it.

Filling cartridges by hand is highly difficult and incredibly expensive. It costs roughly $31,200 for a yearly employee that makes $15 per hour. Once you add payroll taxes (6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare), the total jumps to $33,586.80.

However, compare that to an automated cartridge filler, such as the Vape-Jet, which can fill approximately 4000 carts per day. Compared to an individual using a hand-held filler can reasonably fill just 1000 per day.

Yearly, the Vape-Jet can produce approximately 1,040,000 cartridges. An employee filling cartridges by hand can only complete 260,000 per year. This equates to a per cart cost of $0.002 for the Vape-Jet, versus $0.13 for human labor. That is a $0.12 cost per cart! The number of carts to breakeven here is approximately 250,000, and the return on investment is reached within 65 days.

In the case of the Vape-Jet, scalability is possible as well. A single person could reasonably operate up to 5 Vape-Jet automatic cartridge filling machines at once. Whereas with human labor, the scale is linear. This creates another problem, as many of the current solutions require a single operator working a single machine.

In the case of the Vape-Jet, due to its machine vision technology, the company employing a Vape-Jet can take the foam trays that cartridges are shipped in, and then directly put them on the machine. Other devices use jigs that need to be loaded, requiring human labor to remove each cartridge and put them in the jig. These are then removed from the jig and put back into the foam trays for safe transportation.

As you can see, this method is far less streamlined when compared to the Vape-Jet.

The primary consideration is the cost when deciding on manual labor or automated cartridge fillers. 

In some cases, such as small companies, hand-filling is still optimal. However, as a company begins to grow, it’s far better to implement efficient operations sooner rather than later. However, industrial-size cannabis extraction facilities will increase their efficiency exponentially by utilizing an automated cartridge filler, such as the Vape-Jet.

Other key considerations are:

  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control: Our auto-cartridge filler can sense if the cartridge is defective.
  • Decrease Injury: Repetitive stress from hand filling can occur and does not when utilizing an auto-cartridge filler.
  • Reduce Damage to the Product: Hand-held cartridge fillers with high-heat can cause damage to the final product.
  • Reduce Down Time: Automated cartridge fillers do not experience downtime due to sickness or holiday.

As the cannabis industry matures, so will the technology that provides the backbone of the production process.  

Automation in cartridge filling is the first step towards more efficiency, cost-savings, and quality standards.  For more information on automation technology for cartridge filling and the future of automation innovations – drop us a line.

Categories
Vape Hardware

Quality Assurance Considerations

The design and operating conditions of Vape-Jet 3.0 enable the reliable manufacture of high-quality vaporization cartridges which maintain the intended cannabinoid and terpene profiles until the point of consumption. No other automated filling solution has the degrees of freedom necessary to control dispensing accuracy whilst simultaneously preserving product integrity and quality. 

Overview: Fluid Dynamics and Thermal Degradation

The problem of fluid dynamics is the primary obstacle to reliably filling a vaporization cartridge. The dynamics of cannabis derived fluids varies greatly from highly viscous to free-flowing, with every possibility in between depending primarily upon the concentration of cannabinoids (THC, CBD) relative to terpenes (linalool, myrcene, etc.). Fluid viscosity generally decreases with increasing temperature, and increases with decreasing temperature; i.e. warm fluids flow more easily than cool fluids.

The problem of thermal degradation is often an afterthought in the task of filling vaporization cartridges. Both cannabinoids and terpenes are susceptible to thermal degradation, with terpenes being especially vulnerable to heat in the presence of oxygen. McGraw, Hemingway, et al reported in a 1999 study of terpene thermal degradation that 23-37% of α-pinene is destroyed at temperatures between 90-120C, other terpenes exhibited degradation of as little as 7% or as much as 100% under the same conditions. Coffman and Gentner reported that THC degradation of 8-14% occurs at temperatures above 85C, with similar figures for CBD degradation; the result is a dramatically increased proportion of CBN, the oxidized product. By comparison, THC degradation at 65C resulted in only 3.4% loss, or 159% less degradation than 85C, or 300% less degradation than 105C.

Profile Preservation

The desire for ever increasing throughput has resulted in the adoption of extreme operating conditions by competing vaporization cartridge filling solutions. Competitors routinely make claims of filling 100 cartridges in as little as 2-5 minutes, which is completely achievable with operating temperatures in the neighborhood of 90C-120C. However, as has been illustrated, these temperatures will invariably result in thermal degradation of both cannabinoids and terpenes, resulting in a not-true-to-strain effect for the end user of vaporization cartridges filled in this manner. Not only is the profile different from the originating whole flower, the batch-to-batch and inter-batch variability will also be higher since these extreme temperatures create time-dependent changes in the overall profile. For example, the cartridges filled at Time-0 at 90C will be substantially different than the cartridges filled at the end of that batch.

Vape-Jet is designed to maintain strain specific profiles of cannabinoids and terpenes, whilst striking a balance in throughput via increased automation and gentler operating conditions. Vape-Jet is able to operate at 50C-70C due to the utilization of pressurized Modified Atmosphere Processing (MAP) techniques. With the assistance of pressurized nitrogen, mixed cannabinoids and terpenes are able to be accurately dispensed into vaporization cartridges with significantly reduced thermal degradation and oxidation products. The pressurized product line results in a modified fluid dynamic system, enabling reduced heating to create flow from reservoir to cartridge.

Quality Control and Assurance

The reduced operating temperature of Vape-Jet has the added manufacturing benefit of decreased cartridge leakage, since the product cools immediately upon filling, the atomizer doesn’t become over-saturated before the cap can be installed. Together with pre-fill inspection, Vape-Jet provides unrivaled reduction in waste and batchwise variability. Cartridges filled with Vape-Jet are more true to strain for the end user than any cartridge filled by a competing device. The filling accuracy of Vape-Jet, both in terms of quantity and quality, is unrivaled and assures that the customer receives exactly what was purchased, no more or less. 

References:

G.W. McGraw, R.W. Hemingway, et al. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Thermal Degradation of Terpenes: Camphene, Δ-Carene, Limonene, and α-Terpinene. Retrieved from: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/1366

C.B. Coffman, W.A. Gentner. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Cannabis Sativa L.: Effect of Drying Time and Temperature on Cannabinoid Profile of Stored Leaf Tissue. Retrieved from: https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/bulletin/bulletin_1974-01-01_1_page006.html

Categories
Laboratory

Laboratory Technique – Rotary Evaporator Optimization

This article explains the general process to achieve the maximum possible solvent recovery rate from any rotary evaporator.

Introduction

Rotary evaporation is a powerful technique for quickly removing solvent from a solution of cannabis or hemp extract. There are two distinct methods of operating a rotary evaporator: batch or continuous; choosing the correct one for the task is crucial. For the purposes typically required in the cannabis industry, i.e. winterization or color remediation of extracts, the necessary volume of solvent to be recovered invariably necessitates a continuous style of operation for rotary evaporators. Not only can solvent recovery rates be increased by 2-4x with this mode of operation, but overall throughput is increased as well since vacuum is maintained until the rotary flask (or solvent recovery flask) is ready to be emptied. 

Continuous Operation

In order to achieve the highest possible solvent recovery rate, several individual rates of the rotary evaporation process must be tuned to match or complement each other. The defining characteristic of continuous operation is the slow and constant addition of fresh solution into the rotary flask. Only as much solvent as can be evaporated and condensed should be added to the rotary flask per unit of time. In other words, the volume solvent dripping off the condenser should be equal to the volume of solvent containing solution dripping into the rotary flask.

Important Constants:

  1. Heat – the water bath provides heat to the evaporating surface of the rotary flask. Having enough hot water to cover a large area of the rotary flask is essential.
  2. Vacuum – the vacuum in the system can be thought of as essentially constant if the pump is of sufficient capacity. Having a large enough vacuum pump is vital.
  3. Cold – the condenser removes heat from the vapor and forces it to drip into the collection flask. Having a high cooling capacity is the most important factor.

These important constants are listed in order of increasing difficulty and cost to achieve. Heating water is a very easy and low cost part of the system, the vacuum pump is more specialized but relatively simple, while the refrigeration unit is the most complex and costly component. Having insufficient cooling capacity will dramatically decrease the maximum rate of solvent recovery possible from any rotary evaporation system.

The greater the difference in temperature (ΔT) between the hot (evaporation) and cold (condensation) sides of the system, the faster the solvent can be recovered.  

Ideally, the refrigeration unit of the rotary evaporator system will be large enough so that ΔT behaves as a constant during operation at maximum recovery; in reality, the refrigeration fluid will become hotter as evaporation and condensation begin, until it settles at its operating temperature. As the proportion of extract in the boiling flask increases and solvent decreases, the rate of evaporation will also decrease, resulting in a lower refrigerant temperature.

Important Rates:

Keeping the constants in mind, there are several factors which must be tuned in order to achieve maximum recovery. The ΔT for each system is unique and largely dependent upon the refrigeration unit, tuning the following rates to keep ΔT from changing is the essence of continuous operation of a rotary evaporator.

  1. Rotation – the rate at which solution is exposed to warm surface area to evaporate.
  2. Feed – the rate of addition of fresh solution into the boiling flask, limited by the rate of Evaporation. 
  3. Evaporation – how fast solvent transforms from liquid to gas, determined as a function of Rotation and Feed, in combination with Heat and Vacuum.
  4. Condensation – how fast solvent transforms from gas to liquid, determined as a function of Cooling and Vacuum.

In order to achieve maximum solvent recovery, the operator must tune Rotation and Feed rates such that Evaporation and Condensation rates become equal with the highest possible ΔT.

Example

  1. Attach a length of food-grade tubing to both sides of the Feed Valve.
    1. The rotary flask side of tubing should extend beyond the neck and slightly down the bulb, this reduces splash.
    2. The external side of tubing should be long enough to reach the bottom of the beaker or flask that contains your solution of extract and solvent (i.e. ethanol).
    3. Let your solution come to room temperature prior to solvent recovery, if possible. 
  2. Heat the water bath to at least 60C.
    1. Ensure there is enough water to come up almost to the level of the rotary flask neck, covering 30-40% of the flask when fully lowered.
  3. Turn on the refrigeration unit to its lowest possible setting, below 0C is ideal.
  4. Turn on the vacuum pump.
  5. Set flask rotation to about 100 revolutions per minute (RPM).
  6. Once the refrigerator and vacuum are as low as they can be, flask rotating, and with the external tubing in your solution containing beaker, slowly open the Feed Valve.
    1. Adjust feed valve to a very fine trickle, such that a band of extract forms immediately on the inner surface of the rotating flask.
    2. If a puddle forms or grows within the first few minutes, close the Feed Valve slightly.
    3. A puddle of extract rich solution will begin to form after several minutes, adjust RPM as needed to keep the puddle at the bottom of the flask.
    4. If the puddle is too rich in extract, the Feed Rate can be increased; if the puddle is too rich in solvent, decrease the Feed Rate.
  7. Monitor the refrigerator temperature throughout and adjust the Feed Valve accordingly, i.e. reduce Feed if temperature increases.
  8. Once the rotary flask approaches 30-50% full of extract rich solution, the Recovery Rate will decrease.
    1. Close Feed Valve to reduce chance of boil over, and continue rotary evaporation on the solution in the rotary flask until the desired level of completion.
  9. Remove and collect the extract from the rotary flask as normal with heat, gravity, and silicone scrapers.