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Lasers evolved as a versatile materials processing tool due to their advantages such as rapid, reproducible processing, chemical cleanliness, ability to handle variety of materials, and suitability for automation. This article focuses on state-of-the-art laser applications to improve tribological performance of structural materials in lubricated and nonlubricated environments. It discusses the fundamentals of various laser materials interactions and reviews laser-based surface-modification strategies, including laser surface heating and melting, laser-synthesized coatings, and laser-based design approaches such as laser patterning and dimpling. Laser-surface modification of novel materials, such as high-entropy alloys and metallic glasses, is explored. The article provides an overview of hybrid techniques involving laser as a secondary tool, as well as a discussion on the improved capabilities of laser surface engineering for tribological applications by means of integrated computational process modeling.

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