Mazak Technology Anchors Productivity for TRIAX Precision Manufacturing

When Michael McKee and his two partners opened TRIAX Precision Manufacturing in Sarasota in 2015, they couldn't have known they'd soon be revolutionizing the production of marine engine manifolds for the U.S. Navy. McKee, a mechanical engineer and MBA with a background in everything from steel and mining to injection molding and motorsports, wanted to branch out beyond the industrial turnarounds he'd been doing for a private equity group. His likeminded partners were retired industrialists who wanted to unretire. They began TRIAX with the assets of a small machine shop, a 14,000-sq.-ft. building and an engineering-centric approach that sets them apart.

The projects they take on show the value of their approach. "We focus on our customers' success by looking at their applications, their processes, and use our engineering background and talents to help them however we can," said McKee. For the U.S. Navy, TRIAX completely reconfigured the production process for a critical engine part.

Conventionally produced, this water-cooled manifold was a casting that sometimes failed almost immediately in the harsh environment of battlefield conditions. TRIAX examined the part and proposed a radical solution. They'd machine it from two solid billets of 316 stainless steel.

At 30' long, 4" wide and about 3.5" tall, each billet weighs 100 lbs and requires a crane to handle it. These very large, high-precision parts needed an equally big, accurate machine, so TRIAX added a 5-axis Mazak VARIAXIS i-800 NEO Vertical Machining Center to its shop floor just to make the manifolds. "We originally planned to use a 3-axis machine," McKee noted, "but that would have required eight fixtures and 11 setups. With its two-pallet changer, our Mazak turns this into three fixtures and four setups."

During machining, the VARIAXIS i-800 NEO removes 80% of the material from each billet. Next, a TRIAX-designed welding process combines the two machined halves with two laser-cut sheet-metal parts and four water connections. Then come three hours of stress relief in a 1900°F soak, plus nitrogen quenching, before TRIAX can true up and drill all the flanges. During electropolishing, electrolytic passivating micro-deburs each part and clears away any carbon and ferrite molecules to prevent corrosion. Finally, TRIAX laser etches part and serial numbers, packs up the manifold and sends it out for three-phase testing.

This unique, high-precision approach produces a part that lasts orders of magnitude longer than a casting. "This would be cost prohibitive for a consumer manifold," McKee pointed out, "but this application is too extreme for castings."

Everything about the VARIAXIS i-800 NEO is a great fit for the project and for TRIAX. "It took a machine this size, this robust, this fast and this accurate to make this part because of its size and complexity," McKee said. "We run our Mazak about 5 hours into the night every night, lights out. We have about 16 hours of machining into a single part, and each manifold has two pieces, so that's 32 hours." McKee also appreciates the energy-saving features of the VARIAXIS i-800 NEO. "Not only will this machine finish its cycle and stop, but it actually trips its own main breaker, so you're not drawing power when you don't need it. That's a key element of cost containment."

McKee applauds Mazak's large U.S. presence and local service, as well as its single-source access to quick support. "I really like the new web portal for buying parts," he said. "Mazak has given this process the momentum it needs to succeed. I placed an order today that I'll receive tomorrow. That's crucial for me. I don't have to tie up capital in parts that I don't know I'll need."

"Mazak's focused on providing the technology that lets us do our best. They understand what we do and how we need to do it," McKee said. "I come from a systems-oriented world that demands robust machines, and that's Mazak. They engineer long-term solutions. Every machine has its advantages. But with Mazak, you know you can rely on them to be there now and in the future.""

With a long view of his company's growing success and how high-performance machine tools help achieve its strategic plans, McKee sees Mazak as a real partner who emphasizes what matters to TRIAX. "It's not about having the lowest purchase price. It's about providing the greatest benefit over the longest period of time. The 14 people in our company know what's coming, not just what they need to do today. That makes TRIAX a little bit different – and Mazak thinks the way we do."

About Mazak Corporation

Mazak Corporation is a leader in the design and manufacture of productive machine tool solutions. Committed to being a partner to customers with innovative technology, its world-class facility in Florence, Kentucky produces over 70 models of turning centers, Multi-Tasking machines and vertical machining centers, including 5-axis models, Hybrid Additive processing machines and Swiss Turning Machines. Continuously investing in manufacturing technology allows the Mazak iSMART Factory™ to be the most advanced and efficient in the industry, providing high-quality and reliable products. Mazak maintains eight Technology Centers across North America to provide local hands-on applications, service and sales support to customers. For more information on Mazak's products and solutions, visit or follow us on social media.