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Obituary: Ilkka Lapinleimu, developer of Finland’s mechanical engineering industry sets sail on final voyage

Ilkka Lapinleimu
Emeritus Professor Ilkka Lapinleimu passed away at age 84 in Kangasala, Finland, on 30 January 2021. Lapinleimu grew up in Toijala, Finland, and became interested in boat building, sailing and photography at a young age.

Lapinleimu graduated from Helsinki University of Technology with a master’s degree in technology in 1961. He worked at Lokomo, Raute, Kone and Valmet Tampere before embarking on an academic career. He took up an appointment as professor of production engineering at the University of Oulu in 1972 and at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in 1977 and went on to serve as vice president at TUT.

Lapinleimu was the longest-serving head of the Institute of Production Engineering at TUT. He retired in 1999. Lapinleimu was highly respected and one of the most popular professors among students at TUT.

Ilkka Lapinleimu made a significant contribution to the transformation of the mechanical engineering industry in Finland. His work paved the way for doctoral-level education and research in production engineering, and the first dissertations in this field were written under his supervision. He served as an advisor to several leading mechanical engineering companies and was actively involved in associations in the field. He was, for example, an honorary member of Konepajamiehet ry, a society for mechanical engineering in Finland. He was especially active in Suomen Konepajainsinööriyhdistys, a national society for mechanical engineers in Finland, which awarded him the playful honorary title of “kestoaikaneuvos”. Lapinleimu advised his younger colleagues to always be honest: “You must never under any circumstances tell even a white lie.  You do not have to tell everything, but what you do say must be the truth.”

Lapinleimu summed up his experience and vision in a doctoral dissertation titled Ideal Factory – Theory of factory planning, produceability and ideality. His ideas were positively received within industry and quickly resulted in a number of research programmes that were funded by TEKES (Business Finland) and involved multiple partner companies. These projects helped numerous Finnish companies to take major steps in the development of their production systems.

Following his retirement, Lapinleimu combined his technical expertise and his passion for photography and all things beautiful in The Beauty of the Machine, a photography project that resulted in an exhibition and the release of a photography book in 2016.

Lapinleimu was a sailboat enthusiast and a member of the yachting association Merikarhut. He designed and built many of his boats, the latest being a sailboat made of steel. He was an avid sportsman who particularly enjoyed cross-country skiing; he took part in the skiing event Pirkan hiihto more than 20 times. He also taught these skills to his children and grandchildren.

Ilkka Lapinleimu is fondly remembered by all those who knew him.

The authors include Ilkka Lapinleimu’s daughter and close colleagues at Tampere University of Technology. 

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