“Star Wars” stormtroopers and spacecraft employed superior laser weaponry, offering a glimpse at a projected technological future. Theoretical situations are becoming reality now, as new and innovative applications are driving high demand for advanced laser technology. In just a few years, the global laser market has skyrocketed by billions of dollars; by 2020, MarketsandMarkets research firm projects the market will hit $17 billion. Escalating advancements, demand for new technologies and declining manufacturing costs are in the driver’s seat. Beginning on page 54, we explore the ever-evolving laser market and its growing trends, with input from industry experts. Three sectors in particular are expanding – defense and security, industrial and medical. Laser technology is currently or will soon be deployed by military outlets for airborne laser mine detection, target designation and anti-missile systems. In medical settings, laser-systems technology is being applied in disease diagnosis and treatment, dentistry and cosmetic procedures. In manufacturing, applications such as laser-based plastic welding are offering contactless, fast and flexible processes for increased precision and control. Featured this month is a piece from contributing editor Hank Hogan that discusses advances in laser lithography systems (beginning on page 49). Also in this issue, we examine space-based optics and related trends (beginning on page 40); Hamamatsu Photonics delves into effective simulation software for camera selection (page 45); and contributing editor Marie Freebody offers a look at CCD sensors and their application in machine vision (page 36). The laser industry is advancing at a rapid rate. And while we may never see sharks with lasers attached to their heads (as Austin Powers’ nemesis Dr. Evil envisioned), the technology of the future is upon us. Put on your protective eyewear and enjoy this issue!