Punching is performed by placing the sheet of metal stock between a punch and a die mounted in a press. The punch and die are made of hardened steel and are the same shape. The punch is sized to be a very close fit in the die. The press pushes the punch against and into the die with enough force to cut a hole in the stock. In some cases the punch and die "nest" together to create a depression in the stock. In progressive stamping a coil of stock is fed into a long die/punch set with many stages. Multiple simple shaped holes may be produced in one stage, but complex holes are created in multiple stages. In the final stage, the part is punched free from the "web".
A typical CNC turret punch has a choice of up to 60 tools in a "turret" that can be rotated to bring any tool to the punching position. A simple shape (e.g. a square, circle, or hexagon) is cut directly from the sheet. A complex shape can be cut out by making many square or rounded cuts around the perimeter. A punch is less flexible than a laser for cutting compound shapes, but faster for repetitive shapes (for example, the grille of an air-conditioning unit). A CNC punch can achieve 600 strokes per minute.
A typical component (such as the side of a computer case) can be cut to high precision from a blank sheet in under 15 seconds by either a press or a laser CNC machine.