There are a few different ways of cutting metal. One is with a pair of snips or even a saw. There is also oxyfuel cutting, which is much faster than a manual cutting process. Then there is also plasma cutting, which can be done by hand or on plasma tables. If a computer is running the cutters on plasma tables, the cutting is very fast and can rip through a stack of metal sheets at very rapid speeds.
The old method of cutting, with oxyfuel techonology, required that the metal be heated and even though that can happen very quickly, it does still require time. Depending on the type and thickness of the metal, it could vary quite a bit. Plasma cutters are much faster because they do not require that preheating step and the electric arc can be generated immediately. It is still a little slower on really thick metals but it is overall very fast even with thicker metals. The plasma tables can also handle multiple sheets of metal which oxyfuel cutters just cannot handle.
Another advantage that really adds to the speed process is that multiple cuts can be made on one piece of metal, even nesting pieces. This lessens the need for moving the sheets of metal around the table and of course also decreases waste. That is the beauty of plasma tables. You put the sheet or sheets of metal on the table and set the computer, then it moves very quickly over the sheet, cutting all of the required lines and curves and it will finish up the entire piece. Then all the pieces can be removed and the scrap taken off and another sheet or set of sheets placed on the plasma table. This means there is almost no need to handle the sheets more than just putting them on and the computer works very quickly in getting the pieces cut out.
Another advantage that plasma cutters offer over other methods is the speed of the piercing process. This is a difficult moment in all cutting methods, even on wood. The plasma cutters can do piercing almost instantaneously as opposed to the oxyfuel method which requires preheating of the metal before the piercing can occur. In fact, with the speed of the piercing and then the subsequent cutting, several pieces can be cut with plasma cutting before the oxyfuel technology can even make that very first piercing.
The computer not only physically cuts the metal quickly, which is does, with very little waste of effort or metal, but it also makes the cuts so smooth and effortless that there is very little time required to get the metal ready to work with once it is cut out. It is practically ready to be bent or welded, stapled, folded or whatever is going to happen to it almost the instant it comes off the plasma tables.
At least for right now, using plasma cutters is one of the fastest ways to cut almost all metals. With all of the advantages beyond just the fast cutting that make working with these metal pieces so much faster, if you are interested in getting metal cut and worked quickly, then plasma cutting is probably going to be the way for you to go.