Production Lines: Building the WindBurner™ Personal Stove System

Originally Published on November 5th, 2014.

Since the original Model™ 9 stove was released in 1973, the majority of MSR stoves have been hand-assembled in our factory in Seattle, Wash. Building products in-house gives us full control of the process, allowing us to ensure a high level of production quality and properly test each stove before it leaves our production lines. Here’s a look at how our newest stove, the WindBurner Personal Stove System, is assembled just downstairs from where it was designed and engineered.

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The Personal Side of Powerful

The WindBurner is MSR’s first truly personal stove system, boasting the features solo travelers need most. It’s built with the same award-winning windproof technology found in our Reactor stove system, but the WindBurner sports details like an insulated cozy and drinking lid, allowing it to double as your eat-and-drink mug. And the whole system nests together for easy, compact storage in your pack, making it the ultimate personal stove for backcountry adventures and weekend camping alike.

How It’s Made

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The WindBurner Stove System is just that—a system—made of the stove burner and its specially designed pot, which features a built-in heat exchanger for efficient heat transfer. An extra bowl and a canister stand are also included.

Assembly starts with the stove burner.

Station 1: Burner Cup Assembly

The WindBurner uses a radiant burner stove, which delivers high performance and efficiency with great weather resistance. To make these burners, we start by cutting thin wire-mesh discs, which the stove will use to mix its fuel and house its flame.

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Radiant burner disks coming down the conveyor belt.

We designed a machine to precision cut these discs, stamping them out of sheets of a light and durable alloy called Fecralloy. The machine then stacks four together and sends them down a conveyor to one of our skilled operators.

Spot-welding the gas distributor into the burner cup.
Spot-welding the gas distributor into the burner cup.

At the same time, the stove’s gas distributor is spot-welded into the burner cup. As the discs come down the line, they’re placed into the burner cup and a steel course-wire disc is placed on top as a protective grate. This top disc houses an indicator wire that will glow bright red as soon as your stove is lit, confirming ignition.

Inserting the indicator wire.
Inserting the indicator wire.
Spot-welding the burner cup pieces together.
Spot-welding the burner cup pieces together.

Then, the discs are sandwiched together and welded into the burner cup.

Dimples in the cup’s outer ring provide lock-on points for the pot.
Dimples in the cup’s outer ring provide lock-on points for the pot.

Finally, dimples are punched into the cup’s outer ring to provide lock-on points for the pot, improving the stove system’s stability.

As this is all happening in Station 1, over in Station 2, assembly of the stove’s jet is in the works.

At MSR, we practice lean manufacturing, so we design our stations and production flow for maximum efficiency. Engineering efficient “flow” isn’t easy, but by creating fluidity of movement between workers, machines and stations, we can deliver one WindBurner Stove System off the line about every 3.5 minutes. This model saves energy, and we can pass those cost savings on to the customer.

Station 2: Jet Assembly

Adding lubricant to the mixer tube.
Adding lubricant to the mixer tube.

Dexterity is key in the jet assembly station. Here, O-rings, lubricants and tiny proprietary parts are inserted into the jet, and the aluminum mixer tube is added.

One of the secrets to the WindBurner’s high performance is its ability to operate on 100% “primary air.” By doing so, its flame can be completely enclosed and protected from outside conditions. Because of this, the WindBurner is incredibly fast and fuel-efficient—even in windy or cold weather that can cause conventional stove systems to slow or fail to boil altogether.

Pressing the jet into the pressure regulating valve.
Pressing the jet into the pressure regulating valve.

After the mixer tube is added, a bi-metal thermal gasket is precision-placed as the stove’s safety trip. Then, all goes into the pressure regulating valve.

Once the stove’s intricate jet is complete, the stove’s grip, made of high-temp nylon, is added. It provides a safe, easy place to hold the stove while it’s hot.

The valve is tested for leaks and pressure flow and then the whole unit is sent back to the first station, where the stove receives its shiny stainless steel shroud—a perforated veil around the stove’s highly engineered internals.

WindBurner shroud waiting to be slipped on.
WindBurner shroud waiting to be slipped on.

Finally, the stove’s two assembled units are press-fit together, a few screws are added and, voilà, you have a brand-new WindBurner stove burner, complete and ready for… testing.

Testing in the burn hood.
Testing in the burn hood.

Every single stove we make is tested to ensure that it meets international quality and safety standards, as well as evenly distributes heat with a quality flame. The burners that pass become part of their greater systems with their pot and other components.

For these latter components, we used materials that were of the same quality and durability as the burner. No point in having a long-lasting burner if the other components fall apart, right?

WindBurner pot’s heat exchanger.
WindBurner pot’s heat exchanger.

For the WindBurner pot, we chose hard-anodized aluminum due to its lightweight durability. And the heat exchanger’s fins, which add surface area for maximizing heat, are laser-welded on for strength.

And we didn’t scrimp elsewhere: The cozy is an injection-molded nylon skeleton surrounded by a high-temp polyester that won’t singe. The bowl and lid are a BPA-free, food-grade plastic blend that is not only durable, but won’t shrink with repeated boiling.

Nesting components into WindBurner pot.
Nesting components into WindBurner pot.

Each component is nested inside or outside of the pot, and the compact system is placed neatly in its box. Then all is ready to woo you from the shelf at your local retailer and supply you a hot meal on your next trip into the backcountry or your next weekend campout with friends.

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See how our mountaineering Snow Fluke and Picket are manufactured here.

Watch the step-by-step process of building our WhisperLite stoves here.