Profile cutting is the machine operation of cutting small parts from a bigger sheet metal. Usually the the profile cutting is performed by laser, plasma, water jet automated CNC machines.
Usually when we speak about profile cutting, we are referring to 2D geometries. This differs the machining operation from 3D machining. However you can used a 3D cutter to produce bi dimensional parts.
The layout of the parts to be cut on the sheet metal is usually optimized using nesting programs. With the adoption of this technology, we can reduce waste, cost estimates and material logistics.
But this is not the only desired optimization. When the layout is ready, the next step is create a tool path the cutter machine will follow. This path can be created to minimize machining time using some strategies. This operation is performed by CAM software.
CAM programs dedicated to profile cutting are capable of optimizing lead in, lead out, holes, common cuts, compensate cutter radius, etc. When the tool path is ready, the CAM program creates the machine code (g-code) for the specific cutter you have on the shop floor.
It is recommended to prepare CAD files prior to perform profile cutting. One of the most common problem while creating optimized layouts is using complex geometric shapes, like splines.
Splines geometries are not supported by most CNC motion controllers, so your CAD program should convert splines to arcs. You will have to specify a precision, since this is an proximation and not a exact conversion.