Brothers Aim to Transform the Fabrication Industry

In 2018, Jacom and Caleb Chamberlain started OSH Cut to make metal fabrication quicker, easier, and more accessible for customers.
01 Nov 2018
Caleb and Jacom Chamberlain

Can I Get a Quote?

This is the age of immediacy. Young people enter the workforce now having never experienced a world without Amazon; a world where you can get online, order virtually anything on the planet, and have it arrive on your doorstep in just one or two days. A short twenty years ago, this would have been impossibly difficult to imagine. Now it is the new normal.

Yet in this world of immediacy, the manufacturing industry has yet to catch up. If you've ever ordered fabricated metal, you'll understand exactly what this means. Shops ordinarily take days just to respond to emailed quote requests, with lead-times on the order of weeks even for a single prototype.

In fact, in the FMAs 2021 financial ratios survey, 1 in 4 shops reported taking more than five days to provide quotes.

Caleb and Jacom Chamberlain stumbled into this slow climate while ordering fabricated metal. Local shops were slow to reply (or didn't reply at all), lead-times including quoting often exceed a full month, and prices were inconsistent. One shop estimator confided that they deliberately overbid on a project by 100% because they had a machine down and couldn't take extra work.

The result of this archaic practice was frustrating. With modern CAD tools, it was possible to spin out new designs a couple times per week. But that fast design time meant little in the face of months-long lead-times and impossible ordering workflow.

Why Not Automate This?

As an electrical engineer, Caleb understood that the ordering workflow could be improved. "In the PCB [Printed Circuit Board] industry, you can get online and order custom designs from 100 different manufacturers, and they all provide quotes online," he opined. "Need a design tomorrow? You can get it. And that's for circuit boards, which can be way more complex than a fabricated metal part. Why are fab shops still operating like it's 1980?"

That question was the genesis of OSH Cut, an online metal fabrication service offering laser blank cutting, deburring, and bending services.

OSH Cut's software provides prices online for any number of parts, in any quantity. Customers can upload their drawings or 3D models, experiment with different materials and quantities, and receive automated manufacturability feedback instantly. No need to send an email and wait for an estimator to bid on the job.

An Industry Ready for Change

The industry is abuzz with talk of "Industry 4.0," a shorthand way to describe what some see as the fourth industrial revolution. People may be on to something.

Only a handful of decades ago, engineering and drafting was performed by rooms full of people on drafting tables, manually scribing lines on paper. The advent of computers and the internet changed everything. With CAD/CAM tools and instant access to the world's information, a single engineer may arguably be more productive than 5 to 10 engineers 50 years ago. That means more complex designs can be created quickly. Design and prototyping accelerators are what enable companies to release new phones, cars, or appliances every 6 to 12 months.

The full impact of design automation has yet to spread fully to the fabrication industry. Sure, an engineer can design a new fabricated part in a day, but he/she may have to wait around for a month for a prototype. Some players have shortened that lead considerably, but even the best of shops measure quoting times in hours or days, to say nothing of delivery timelines.

OSH Cut aims to change that. Instant quoting and manufacturability feedback means an engineer can iterate on designs quickly, exploring costing and capabilities without any delay. And lead-times as short as same-day shorten the engineering cycle considerably. OSH Cut hopes to set a new standard for customer experience in metal fabrication.