This paper reviews the active and growing field of thermal processing of materials, with a particular emphasis on the linking of basic research with engineering aspects. In order to meet the challenges posed by new applications arising in electronics, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, and other areas, extensive work has been done on the development of new materials and processing techniques in recent years. Among the materials that have seen intense interest and research activity over the last two decades are semiconductor and optical materials, composites, ceramics, biomaterials, advanced polymers, and specialized alloys. New processing techniques have been developed to improve product quality, reduce cost, and control material properties. However, it is necessary to couple research efforts directed at the fundamental mechanisms that govern materials processing with engineering issues that arise in the process, such as system design and optimization, process feasibility, and selection of operating conditions to achieve desired product characteristics. Many traditional and emerging materials processing applications involve thermal transport, which plays a critical role in the determination of the quality and characteristics of the final product and in the operation, control, and design of the system. This review is directed at the heat and mass transfer phenomena underlying a wide variety of materials processing operations, such as optical fiber manufacture, casting, thin film manufacture, and polymer processing, and at the engineering aspects that arise in actual practical systems. The review outlines the basic and applied considerations in thermal materials processing, available solution techniques, and the effect of the transport on the process, the product and the system. The complexities that are inherent in materials processing, such as large material property changes, complicated and multiple regions, combined heat and mass transfer mechanisms, and complex boundary conditions, are discussed. The governing equations for typical processes, along with important parameters, common simplifications and specialized methods employed to study these processes are outlined. The field of thermal materials processing is quite extensive and only a few important techniques employed for materials processing are considered in detail. The effect of heat and mass transfer on the final product, the nature of the basic problems involved, solution strategies, and engineering issues involved in the area are brought out. The current status and future trends are discussed, along with critical research needs in the area. The coupling between the research on the basic aspects of materials processing and the engineering concerns in practical processes and systems is discussed in detail.