Diode-pumped, solid state, q-switched lasers now enable a very diverse array of precision materials-processing applications. An important key to ongoing market growth and applications diversification is the development of lasers whose performance is optimally tailored to meet the needs of specific applications. For example, long output pulses are preferable for soft wafer marking, whereas short pulses are desirable for solar cell scribing and creating gray-scale pictures for passports and other personal identity applications. The pulsewidth and overall output power are interdependent performance characteristics determined by laser design parameters such as resonator length, repetition rate, and pumping intensity. This interdependence leads to trade-offs when optimizing the laser performance, meaning that no single resonator configuration can simultaneously meet the needs of all applications. This paper reviews the basics of q-switched, diode-pumped laser operation, and examines some of their most important applications in terms of performance requirements. We then present a modular laser design approach that enables niche markets and prototype applications to be serviced with optimum performance, without incurring significant costs for custom laser development.