Selective laser sintering (SLS) is one of the most rapidly growing rapid prototyping techniques (RPT). This is mainly due to its suitability to process almost any material: polymers, metals, ceramics (including foundry sand) and many types of composites. The material should be supplied as powder that may occasionally contain a sacrificial polymer binder that has to be removed (debinded) afterwards. The interaction between the laser beam and the powder material used in SLS is one of the dominant phenomena that defines the feasibility and quality of any SLS process. This paper surveys the current state of SLS in terms of materials and lasers, It describes investigations carried out experimentally and by numerical simulation in order to get insight into laser-material interaction and to control this interaction properly.