Many companies will have things that they need cut into shape and this is where third party companies have set their selves up to do the work. Indeed, contract die cutting is something that is farmed out on a regular basis. This, along with OEM die cutting is a very lucrative business.
What this process does is to cut out the same shapes over and over again from whatever substance the company is involved in. This could be wood, metal or any kind of plastic that is suitable for the work in question. These cut parts are called blanks since they are literally just that and will not have anything added to them at the cutting place but may do later on. The company can add some other decoration or embellishment at a later stage but this will probably be done by themselves or even yet another contractor.
One prime example of this is the upper part of any kinds of shoes or sandals. The shape is cut out with a machine which can cut literally hundreds or thousands in one run and then they are sent on for other processes to be started. The blades used to cut out these blanks are very sharp and is usually bent into a shape that is suitable. It is then mounted onto a strong backing block which is capable of cutting out the shapes much like a cookie cutter and dough and sometimes with as much ease. The difference here though is that they can either be used to cut out one shape at a time, or they could be used to cut out stacks of shapes when the materials allow this. It is not always necessary to have one cutter to each individual mount. Many manufacturers will certainly want to cut down on waste materials so they squeeze in several on one mounting block. They fix them to the mount closely so that very little material is wasted and this inevitably will cut down on the manufacturing cost.
Of course, industrial style cutters are not necessarily used for cutting clothing or flexible material. They can cut out key blanks or other such metal objects and there are some huge cutters which stamp out pieces that are used in the shipping business. These cutters are lethal, naturally, and this is why it is normally left to professional companies to carry on this type of work. Some people have had limbs amputated when care was not taken in these places that use such cutters.
One drawback with these cutters is that they can really only cut out flat shapes since the blades literally slice the material in one fell swoop. However, when it is materials like leather or cloth, of course the material can be molded into the correct shape with some top stitching or such once this initial work is done.
When it comes to paper, these cutters can also cut out many layers all at the same time. They are often used to put a fold in the paper too by pressing down on the shape but without slicing it right through the piece. This is how birthday cards and the like are handled before printing.