Laser cladding is a coating process which uses a laser beam to melt the coating material and a thin layer of the substrate to form a low dilution, pore- and crack-free coating, perfectly bonded to the substrate. The process may be used for large area coverage, by overlapping individual tracks, but it is the ability to protect localized ares and the wide range of materials that can be deposited that makes laser cladding particularly appropriate to tailor surface properties to local service requirements, opening new perspectives for surface engineering. Laser cladding has been finding widespread use for the protection of materials against wear, corrosion and oxidation, and for the refurbishing of components and tools. Other applications with considerable potential are materials development and synthesis and free-form near-net shape manufacturing. Examples of recent work will be presented and discussed.