TUM Emeritus of Excellence Joachim Heinzl

“Some things work before you know why”

Joachim Heinzl originally wanted to become an architect. But he decided to study Mechanical Engineering at TUM. His groundbreaking research led to the worldwide introduction of inkjet printers.

Shortly before the end of the Second World War, Joachim Heinzl was forced to flee Bohemia with his siblings and his mother. The family ended up in Munich, where they were subsequently reunited with Heinzl’s father, who had been released from Russian captivity. After graduation Joachim Heinzl wanted to become an architect. “But my father said that almost all the buildings destroyed by the war had already been rebuilt,” he recalls. “That’s when I decided in favor of Mechanical Engineering at TUM.” The subject also suited him perfectly. Even as a school student, he had built microscopes, telescopes and keyboard instruments and often visited the Deutsches Museum.

In 1960, Joachim Heinzl began studying Mechanical Engineering at TUM. He remembers his student days well. “Many university teachers were impressive personalities at that time,” he says. Above all, it was TUM Alumni and Professor Dr. Rudolf Koller (Degree Mechanical Engineering 1960, Doctorate 1964) who left a deep impression on him with his exercises on mechanisms and gear trains. Dr. Koller was also the one who enticed Joachim Heinzl away to Siemens in 1968. In fact, the position at Siemens was supposed to allow him to quickly finish his doctoral thesis on the hydraulics of the inner ear and listening theories. But the doctorate had to wait.

Pioneer and bridge builder

Joachim Heinzl’s career got off to a lightning start at Siemens. After two years he became laboratory manager, then laboratory group leader. This was no surprise: not only did Heinzl find the work in the central laboratory for data technology a lot of fun, he also achieved some major successes with his research and experiments in the field of microtechnology. “Some things work before you know why,” Joachim Heinzl remembers with a smile. Together with his small team, he developed the world’s first drop-on-demand inkjet printer, which delivers pressure fluid only on demand.

The pioneer of ink printing technology reports modestly today how surprised he was when he was offered a position at the University of Duisburg in 1975. But in the end, he actually returned in 1979 to his alma mater. For nearly thirty years, he conducted research on printing in the TUM Department for Precision Engineering and Microtechnology. He has also researched low-noise aerostatic bearings, ultra-precision machining, laser measurement techniques and servo-drive technology.

I really enjoyed supervising my many wonderful and successful doctoral students at TUM.

Joachim Heinzl never gave up his close associations with industry, and above all those with his former employer proved very useful during his professorship. For decades, Heinzl advised Siemens and was able to propose relevant research topics for which the necessary funds were then made available to him. This also gave numerous doctoral students opportunities to work on exciting and highly topical topics. “I really enjoyed supervising my many wonderful and successful doctoral students at TUM,” recalls Joachim Heinzl.

He forged coalitions between science and industry that were equally profitable for both, and thanks to this, good ideas received the necessary funding and were brought to the market as innovations. Together with Chinese guest lecturers and German sinologists, he developed an intelligent text system for Chinese, which was exported by Siemens to the People’s Republic of China. He accompanied three TUM spin-offs, as co-founder and partner, and was later on a member of the supervisory board of one of these.

It has to be fun

Joachim Heinzl has been an emeritus professor since 2005. Of course, he is happy that he now has more time for music and for travelling around the Mediterranean. But he still builds bridges. In 2005, the Bavarian State Chancellery appointed him President of the Bavarian Research Foundation, which he was for six years. Since 2016 he has been a TUM ombudsman together with TUM Emerita of Excellence Prof. Dr. Angelika Görg. In this role, he endeavors to solve conflicts peacefully within the scientific community.

He enjoys attending the seminars of his successor, Professor Dr. Tim Lüth, at TUM and the events of the TUM Emeriti of Excellence, the exclusive group of which he is now a member. “It is a group of like-minded people who can do a lot for the university,” he says. If science is fun, you just have to keep doing it. Joachim Heinzl is a good example for this.