Frequently Asked Questions

The Design of the Launch Box® Vaporizer

The Launch Box® is a conduction vaporizer, how can it be efficient?

While it is true that, in general, convection vaporizers will be more efficient overall than conduction patterns, the performance gap can be narrowed significantly with various techniques and in some cases even dramatically exceeded! The Box performance is much better than any other vaporizer in its class due to the following four factors:

  • 1 The Box generates vapor only when needed -- it does not waste any vapor by staying hot between hits or by continuing to cook the load after you have had enough. Loaded material can continue to be cycled over any extended period of time, delivering vapor when you want it without ever having to wait or waste. Conscious user technique with the battery can ensure that there is zero lost vapor every time.
  • 2 The Box makes careful use of infra-red characteristics in its design. While pure conduction designs tend do work very poorly, pure IR vaporizers (although very uncommon and very expensive) tend to be fairly good since they have overall heat distribution characteristics very similar to pure convection designs for smaller loads. The Launch Box® is not "just" a conduction vaporizer -- it is also has significant IR characteristics.
  • 3 The Box incorporates several vapor channel flow features to ensure the absolute minimum vapor condensation. Convection vaporizers necessarily need to use significantly more heat energy to operate efficiently -- heat which must be removed from the vapor prior to ingestion. Any surfaces, piping, or water chambers used to cool the vapor are also condensation sites. Condensed vapor is lost vapor and that means that a big pipe overall is less efficient. Any parts that require occasional cleaning also indicate a significant volume of previously lost vapor. Used natively, the Box rarely requires any cleaning since it delivers the vapor directly to you -- without converting some of it into black gunk along the way.
  • 4 Since the Box uses only and exactly as much heat energy as is needed for vaporization (the Box is easily one of the world's most energy-efficient vaporizers), the enclosed chamber can be designed to allow for the simplest and most reliable form of mechanical stirring possible: shaking. By shaking the Box between hits, the previously ground load can be evenly re-mixed to ensure much more even heating. The clear lid also allows for immediate inspection to determine both the effectiveness of the stirring and the degree of completion. In this way, good user technique can result in excellent overall performance and efficiency.

In summary, in-house lab testing has shown the Box vaporizer to be nearly as efficient as the best convection vapes (when used correctly), and noticeably better than most.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the Box is optimized for convenience -- it was never intended to be "the world's most efficient vape". Dollar for dollar, the Box delivers more vapor in more locations more naturally. That is what it is best used for.

Also, what good is a "super-efficient vaporizer" if you do not also use it very consistently? If you end up smoking because you are away from the home and have no place to plug it in (or prefer not to wait five minutes for it to heat up!) then your "average efficiency" has gone way down. Getting fairly good efficiency most of the time is very much better overall (health wise and cost wise) than getting great efficiency only occasionally. For most people, actual practical convenience is much more important in real life than some elusive abstract ideal of "efficiency".

I can get a harder buzz from my Box than from my other vaporizers, why?

The basic reason has to do with optimized overall airflow and vapor path, as well as near perfect user interface characteristics. The design of the Box has a number of subtle physical and psychological characteristics to ensure maximum actual vapor delivery. The real efficiency of a vaporizer device is not defined by how well it can make vapor in theory, it is measured in terms of how much of that actual vapor it makes biologically available. Temperature, although an important aspect, is not the only criterion of quality.

Our research indicates that other vaporizer companies have focused all of their design effort on the heating system. After that has been accomplished, they seem to put little effort into calculating the motion and migration of that vapor once it leaves the heating chamber. Probably this is because it is hard (very very hard!) to calculate and predict airflow patterns to begin with, especially in small spaces with wide temperature differentials, and determining metrics of condensation is, if anything, even much more so. Furthermore, for true optimal bio-availability, it is necessary that the design engineer have a realistic understanding and accounting for the human physiology of how the vapor progresses through the mouth, travels through the oropharynx, nasopharynx, the larynx, the trachea, and the progressively subdividing system of bronchi and bronchioles until it finally reaches the alveoli where the adsorption of active ingredients takes place.

Given the (extreme) level of technicality involved in all of this, and the fact that it generally requires a combined understanding of graduate level physics, physiology, and psychology, it is not so surprising that these higher and more exotic/abstract levels of optimization have been heretofore omitted -- let alone have any presence in the popular awareness (hence the apparent reasonableness of the question). Fortunately, our lead designer does happen to have this level of knowledge, and since we are all true geeks, we tend to go for this sort of thing. We have found that when implemented, such optimizations do make a difference, as user experience is able to attest. We figure that the overall magnitude of these second, third, and forth order effects is about 30%. The effort involved to get that additional yield, however, is at least 30X over that of the heating system design, and tends to require someone who has taken about 20 or so years of advanced schooling.

Does the Box give off an odor in use?

While most vaporizers will have significantly less smell than smoking, we believe (but have not yet confirmed) that this vaporizer produces the lowest level of secondary smell of any vape currently on the market. Mostly, this is a direct consequence of the design aspects of the Launch Box®. The Box has a small short channel system, and therefore, has very few parts in contact with the vapor -- fewer parts to re-radiate smell. The Box uses minimum energy (no preheating) and minimum exchange air volume, so that there is no smell associated with the aromatic components coming off while waiting for the unit to start up (there is no waiting with the Box).

Often, the only evident smell occurs when loading the Box (of course, preloading before arrival is an option here). Also, if you exhale directly into someone's face, it is likely that they will smell something. Usually however, anyone more than 3 feet away will not be able to smell anything at all. Your mileage may vary -- all risks taken are exclusively your own -- use responsibly.

Part of the reason is that, used as directed, the Box only produces vapor when you need it -- there is never any vapor/odor directly vented to the room. Most vaporizers, once started, will also stay going until the load is completely spent (constant heating). Since the user can only take in vapor intermittently with the breath, that means that with most vaporizers there will always be occasions where the heated materials will be venting to the room -- hence the smell. With the Box, the heating is itself intermittent and matches consumption. The user consumes and adsorbs the smell along with the medicine -- hence no aroma is ever directly vented to the room.

The Box is designed to produce only as much vapor as the lungs are likely to adsorb, whereas most others vaporizers are designed to produce a significant excess of vapor (looks more impressive). This has the dual advantage of both being more efficient in delivery as well as being more discreet. As with viability of exhaled vapor being an indication that better performance/technique is possible, excess smell is also an indicator of potential improvements in the usage pattern. Unlikely as it may seem to some, it is possible to get full medicinal effects from the Box with nearly zero resulting additional smell in the room (i.e., any odor more than the baseline of what the unheated load would produce in an unused Box). The section Usage & Technique describes some effective and optimized user techniques that make all of the difference with the Box.

What temperature is the Launch Box® vaporizer designed to work at?

The "science" of vaporization seems to indicate that the optimal temp for vaporization is a constant 380°F (193°C) so that is what we aim for in all of our designs. At manufacture, the Box is calibrated to be at 380°F (193°C) four seconds after the moment it is started, assuming a fairly slow constant draw rate and average environmental conditions. The temperature in the Box is far from constant, however. It changes continually depending on the rate of draw, over the range of about 260°F on the low end to about (when drawing too fast) to about 450°F (232°C) when not drawing at all (and leaving it on for minutes at a time). Therefore, what we aim to do is to have the temp most easily stabilize at between 370°F (188°C) and 400°F (204°C) for a reasonable rate of draw.

The full range of temperatures, inclusive of all possible operating conditions, intended or accidental, available to the LB is anywhere from ambient to full combustion at 451°F (233°C). The typical operating temperature of the LB while in use tends to center at about 392°F (200°C) -- this is the ideal. Accessible/common usage technique can easily allow for anything in the range of 329°F (165°C) to 410°F (210°C).

How can I tell if my Box is running too cool?

Ideally, if filled and let sit with the battery in and no drawing at all for 2 minutes, the contents of the bowl should turn very dark brown (and perhaps black on the bottom). We try to calibrate it hot enough so that it falls about 36°F (20°C) short of actual combustion under these conditions. If you shake/stir the Box (but do not draw or open the lid) during this test, you will get a better sense as to how the heating is occurring. Depending on the specific load (how dry it is, how finely ground, etc.), the specific calibration of the particular LB unit and assuming zero draw rate conditions, actual ignition conditions might be achieved in as little as 30 seconds. For most units shipped under most conditions, the time will be noticeably longer.

During normal draw, the Box should be hot enough to create vapor when looking at the draw hole, but not to obviously create large visible clouds (it is not designed for that). If you can see the vapor on exhale, it is either wasted vapor or smoke -- both conditions to be avoided. Really, the best test of the Box is how it delivers the medical qualities of the herb -- what the user feels like 3 minutes after taking a few hits, rather than on what can be seen when exhaling or what is felt in the first 30 seconds or so. Also, if after taking several hits (with shaking in between) the contents are all brown, then it is certain that all available vapor has been created, and presumably ingested. If the contents are still mostly green after several hits (not just some army green specs) and are not mostly brown, then there is a chance that the Box may be running a bit cool (else, check the battery charge and slow the draw rate).

Is there some sort of test we can do at home to gauge the temperature of our LB?

Unfortunately no. The IR characteristics make a lot of difference, so it's either special built optical gear (what we use internally) or embedded thermocouple -- neither option is realistically available for home use without spending a lot of $$$.

Is there a 'break-in' period after which the Box runs cooler?

Magic-Flight testing has not noticed any 'break in' period with the unit itself. We suspect that observations to this effect are much more likely to be associated with the batteries. The discharge profile for the first 15 seconds of use immediately after a battery is charged is different than the discharge characteristics for most of the remainder of the battery cycle. This curve itself changes depending on the number of complete charge/discharge cycles the battery has passed through, particularly for the first few cycles. Given the intensive usage and battery cycling that the Box imposes on the battery, these effects are somewhat more pronounced than would be evident from testing that the battery manufacturer would know of.

As such, we tend to think that this effect is probably due to a combination of the following two factors: 1) Changes in the battery itself, and 2) Changes in the manner that the battery is used. In particular, new users are more likely to pull the battery off the charger and immediately use it, whereas later, there is probably allowed a 'cooling off' period from when the battery is charged and when it is first used.

This is not to say that there might be some effect with the unit itself that has not observed or is not yet known, only that we have not detected such effects.

What materials are used to make the Launch Box®?

Boxes are made from select Maple, Cherry, Walnut, and other exotic hardwood, glass, steel, and stainless steel (i.e., same as used in high end cooking pans) for the mesh screen and for some internal parts, acrylic (brand name Plexiglas) for the cover, and a stainless steel spring clip, used for the cover hinge. We apply one coat of odorless/food-grade butcher block oil to the wood to slow discoloration due to handling. We have also added silicone rubber locking rings and (optional) battery pushback rings to make using and maintaining the Box easier.

The optional draw stem accessory (not necessary to use the Box) is made of acrylic, although glass and wood versions will be available soon.

There are no chemicals used for bonding -- it is an aggregate physical process (specifically, there is absolutely no solder and no lead). Magic-Flight has made all possible efforts to ensure/guarantee the complete and total health and safety of this device. There are no hazardous materials used.

Overall, the Box is very durable (can be dropped without harm, etc.). The only part which is more delicate is the internal screen which is very thin -- use only the provided brush as a tool in direct contact with the screen. If the screen becomes damaged (whatever the reason) Magic-Flight will send a replacement Box unit (it's part of the warranty -- the screen itself is not end-user replaceable).

The Box is durable and practical as well as safe. Purists who absolutely and dogmatically insist that everything be made of only borosilicate glass are gently advised to consider the products of other vendors instead of the LB.

Have you considered using other woods?

We currently use maple because it offers excellent machining characteristics, while also being environmentally sustainable. In the past, all Launch Boxes were made using Birch hardwood because it had certain machining characteristics that were "just right" -- not too hard or too soft. In addition to its processing characeristics, we prefer certain woods due to their being more environmentally sustainable.

We do occasionally make sample units out of Cherry, Walnut, Zebrawood, Koa, and some other exotics. However, due to certain subtleties of the build process, working these other hardwoods can be problematic and more expensive. The considerations are:

  • 1 Is it available? (Sustainable production, safe to harvest and use, etc.)
  • 2 Can Magic-Flight process it? (Does it dull tools, is it too hard)
  • 3 Are there restrictions on its use? (Import limits, endangered, too smelly, too porous, etc.).

Some of these custom units are available for purchase through the Online Store. Please contact them for information about cost and availability.

At some point, we do intend to offer more support custom woods and special request processing at an extra cost. Currently, plans for that level of support are on hold until we can get some of the basic infrastructure, supplies, etc., setup.

Is there any kind of finish or oil put on the wood of the Box?

Yes, we apply one coat of odorless/pharmaceutical food-grade butcher block oil to prevent discoloration due to handling (skin oils). The wood is otherwise unfinished/untreated and guaranteed natural.

Why do you make the Box out of wood, rather than ceramic, silicone, or Teflon?

A company -- a business -- is more than simply a collection of its products and its people. To truly be "successful" in a more meaningful and lasting sense, rather than considering just the functionality of things, it is also necessary to consider the values embodied in them. Magic-Flight uses wood not only because it is nearly a perfect fit for the required functionality, but also because it is an expression of our collective values.

If considered *only* from a functional perspective Teflon or silicone could almost work (glass and ceramic are definitely out because of improper thermal characteristics and because they are too heavy). However, both of these products are seriously synthetic and have non-biodegradable lifespans on the order of one hundred thousand years or more. Having a lifetime warranty is one thing; creating yet more trash in the world 300 years from now is another. Wood is truly the best material to use, both from a functional perspective and also from a values and meaning one as well.

Isn't wood also organic and inherently porous -- a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi?

This is simply not true. Wood has natural resistive aspects that actively prevent the breeding of bacteria, fungi, and mold. Keep in mind that the growing tree in nature has a strong incentive to evolve in a direction that will preserve and protect its wood from invasions of these exact types. Each of the various types of wood has various oils and aromatics within the wood itself that work to protect the wood. Magic-Flight does not need to add these -- they are already there and are much better functionally than anything we could invent. Wood has to be exposed to wind, rain, and sunlight a fairly long time for bio-degrade to be possible in nature -- years, typically. When we add sealants to the wood, it slows this process by a factor of 10X or 20X. Therefore, given the average of the exposure environments and this slowing, the wood in the Box should be able to last a hundred years or more -- plenty long enough.

If you have any doubt of these facts, consider that there have been safety studies conducted on the relative merits of wood cutting boards in the kitchen vs Teflon ones. Although some vendors would prefer that you not know this, it is actually the case that Teflon cutting boards are far worse breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi than wood ones. Both types of cutting boards have tiny grooves in them (due to the action of the knife while in normal use) -- grooves which can provide a home for bacteria and fungi. However, while the Teflon boards are inert, and thus do nothing to inhibit the growth of these cells, the natural oils in the wood make it much less likely that such cells can multiply and survive. These studies have shown that for most folk in most situations, wooden cutting boards are far safer. Only in industrial kitchens that regularly clean with chemical sterilization techniques can the disadvantage of Teflon be (temporarily) offset.

Keep in mind also that the need to "perfectly clean" the unit is purely a psychological one and/or a legal one -- it is not (and never has been) a functional issue. People want to remove all trace of what was put into the Box as a reaction to an improperly designed set of prohibition laws. These laws are themselves reactionary, disabling, and needing to get fixed. If we are going to "improve" or "fix" something, let's concentrate our efforts on what is going really solve the problem and be effective -- repeal the ridiculous plant prohibition laws!

Has Magic-Flight ever tried increasing the area of contact between the screen and the herb?

Yes, we have. Extensively. It turns out that the shape, size, and angles of orientation all matter. A lot. Surprisingly, these additional aspects make the surface area of contact factor one somewhat less important in the overall design. Certain dimensions have more to do with time rate of change in the degree of criticality due to the specific angles of enclosure as seen from different points in the chamber. It is more of an IR effect than a surface of contact effect. This sort of esoterica can quickly get rather complicated to explain.

Could I place foil on the screen of the Box so I can use it for oils, powders, etc.?

Not really, unfortunately. The issue is that using the aluminum foil (necessary to protect the screen from oil and resin) can also affect the electrical properties of the Box, potentially disabling or damaging it. There really is no reliable way to use the Box with user formed aluminum foil trays.

Would be possible to have some kind of insert that allowed concentrates to be used in a Box?

We did some experiments along those lines and were never really satisfied with the results. One challenge to overcome is that the insert/tray/boat itself had to be really small and light, or else it simply took too long to heat up, and anything that small tends to be fussy, fragile and hard to use. Another problem is that it cannot be metallic -- which limits the range of useful designs dramatically. Also, its placement in the Box had to be very exact for it to perform at all well -- any extra space at all wasted a lot of heat. It also made the Box a lot less portable, since with the tray it now needed to be kept upright.

Why is there no on/off switch or button on the vaporizer?

For an actual literal switch, there are several reasons to not include one. For example, there are issues of long term reliability. The LB needs to switch fairly high current (more than 5 amps) AND any switch used must be very small. This means that "a simple switch that is reliable" is also more expensive than you might expect (think many dollars, not pennies). There are actually very few switches which would even work in the Box, despite the variety of components available these days. (Small means low-current; high-current means large -- realistically, there is not much overlap).

Attempting to work around the limitations of available switches unfortunately also requires too many side effects to the design. Using high energy electronic methods to get around the problems has significant impacts on the overall cost reliability as well. Instead of trying this approach, we have instead introduced a "battery pushback ring" that can act in the same way as a push-button switch. For units so equipped, the back end of the battery becomes the push-button -- pressing the battery into the unit turns it on, and releasing pressure will turn the unit back off. These pushback rings can be also added (retrofit) into existing Boxes -- see the Online Store for details.

What is the purpose of the little light?

The small indicator light (located under the screen at the back of the heating chamber) lets you know if the battery is making contact. You can see the light if you look directly into the inhaling hole or, if you use one, the drawing tube.

It also gives an indication of how much battery strength is left. Towards the end of the battery charge, the light dims and reddens somewhat.

Is the light covered by the lifetime warranty?

Unfortunately, no. This type of light cannot be expected to last forever. Fortunately, this will not affect the vaporization function of the Launch Box® itself, which is warrantied.

The light (which is not manufactured by Magic-Flight) is similar in configuration/construction to a regular household light bulb. As is true for all of these bulbs, they will eventually burn out. (The longer lasting LED type of light cannot be used for technical reasons: the electron band-gap for silicon junctions is simply not low enough for there to be enough free potential for visible photon emission, regardless of the doping).

The light lifetime in the Box is also shortened somewhat by the fact that they are run in a hotter than average environment with many sharp temperature changes (which is hard on any pressured glass envelope with a metal to glass seal). This is why the light cannot be part of the lifetime warranty.

Where is the air intake?

The shallow groove on the top face, connecting the bowl area with the negative terminal ring is the air inlet hole. It's not optional, it is necessary for the functionality of the unit (and certain air patterns, etc.).

Is the contact ring supposed to intrude into the battery hole?

The contact ring is supposed to be somewhat in the battery hole -- it needs to be to make the negative terminal connection with the battery. This is by design, and it should be firm/tight with the battery.

Does the bottom of the trench have a brown tint when the Box is new?

Yes -- we use a burn-in technique that allows us to check the unit calibration. The discoloration is normal.

My serial number is X; Does that mean you've made over X boxes?

The number is non-sequential. It contains some quality control codes that allow Magic-Flight to identify the batch if there ever turns out to be any QA issues that need to get fixed.

Why is the draw hole partially obstructed?

The Box has a small lip just inside the draw hole. This lip is necessary to prevent the draw stem from being inserted incorrectly and damaging the screen.

What is the smaller hole on the other end for? Do I lose vapor from it?

The smaller hole on the opposite end of the Box is part of the assembly process. It is not connected to the vapor chamber so there is no possibility of losing vapor through it. You can plug it if you wish.

I heard that two rubber rings were added to the Box design, what are they for?

A rubber O-ring was added around the opening to the herb chamber to prevent material from getting trapped and to reduce or eliminate the possibility of dislodging the screen from its original position.

A small rubber washer was added at the base of the battery hole to provide some resistance that prevents accidental battery contact. With this ring in place, you have to apply pressure to make contact and heat up the screen. These rings can be added retroactively and are available from the Online Store. The push-back ring requires a firm pressure and could be problematic for users with arthritic or otherwise weakened hands. If you don't like the ring it can be removed with a pair of tweezers.

Does the rubber O-ring around the herb chamber opening heat up and release toxic fumes?

No. Distance/position makes a significant difference as far as the actual specific temperature is concerned. As part of calibration, we perform thermal imaging on each unit and can therefore be sure that the ring is not getting to temperatures where anything harmful is released.