The high power CO2 laser is capable of performing a wide range of tasks in manufacturing processing.The metal working operations which can be performed are cutting, welding, surface hardening, surface alloying and surface melting (“glazing”).These functions are discussed, effect of speed and power input illustrated by reference to metallurgical structure and properties. The basic attribute of the laser is that it is selective and rapid. The heat input to the work-piece is thus at a minimum and distortion is reduced to a very low level or eliminated. Examples of tolerances for cutting and heat treatment are given.The possibilities of using lasers as an in-line production tool is discussed, as is the need for a high degree of automation.The conclusion is that the greatest potential exists when the total manufacturing route is considered. Laser technology should not be thought of merely as a “substitution process”.