In the present work a novel method to improve the surface properties of stainless steel is presented and discussed. The method, based on the use of a high repetition rate femtosecond Yb fibre laser, permits generation of highly reproducible, robust, uniform and periodic nanoscale structures over a large surface area. The technique is characterized by high productivity, which, in its most simple form, does not require special environmental conditioning. Surface morphology is scrutinized through SEM and AFM analyses and wettability behaviour is investigated by means of the sessile drop method using distilled-deionized water. It is shown that optimization of process parameters promotes anisotropic wetting behaviour of the material surface. (C) 2015 CIRP.