It is with much sadness that we report that Dr Leo Prakash, a renowned authority in the field of cemented carbides and other hard materials, died at age sixty-nine on February 16, 2019, in Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany. A modest man with a contagious smile, he often understated his wealth of knowledge on the subject, which is widely acknowledged within both academic and industrial circles.
His pioneering work in the late 1970s and early 1980s on iron-based binders for hardmetals led to the commercialisation of several alternatives to pure cobalt and laid the foundation for the wave of recent research and development into low cobalt and cobalt-free hardmetals, an important topic considering the status of cobalt as a critical raw materal as well as the current strict classification issues.
Following on, from the mid-late 1980s and into the 1990s, his fundamental studies into the mechanisms of grain growth inhibition and sintering of the very finest grained tungsten carbide hardmetals at the time were also of great significance for the industry, as were his studies of material properties and performance in both laboratory tests and practical applications. He authored or co-authored over forty publications in international journals, conferences and textbooks, and many are still regularly cited today.
Based on his many decades of international industrial experience in R&D, production and general management within the hardmetal industry, even after reaching the stage in his career at which most people enjoy a comfortable retirement, he continued practising his art and supporting academia and industry through his global consultancy activities and participation in many national and international bodies.
For the last ten years, he was co-chairman of EuroHM, the European hard materials group within the European Powder Metallurgy Association (EPMA). In this role, he originated and initiated a series of ‘Club Projects’, bringing together RTOs and industrial companies from across Europe to perform pre-competitive basic research on a range of topics related to cemented carbides. This collaborative model has now been adopted by other sectoral groups within the EPMA and has proven to be one of its success stories of recent years.
He was central to fostering a true hard materials community within Europe and is an iconic and highly respected figure within the field. One lasting contribution will be the ‘Vision2025’ EPMA roadmap document for hard materials he co-authored, defining the future strategy and R&D focus of the European hard materials community and how it should address the major challenges of low-cost competition from outside Europe and potential raw material supply chain disruption.
His funeral took place on March 1 in Rottenburg am Neckar. He is survived by his wife Lydia, his four children (Rebecca, Deborah, Sarah and David) and four grandchildren. He will be sorely missed.