On January 12 of 2022, the cold winter wind took the last breath of a virtuous man who, with his intellect and enthusiasm for work, helped to shape and pave the way for the development of society with the ideal of just progress, and who selflessly devoted himself to generations of students and young professionals in business.
Prof. Dr. Jože Hlebanja, emeritus, was born on March 31, 1926, in Srednji vrh near Kranjska gora. He attended secondary school in Jesenice and enrolled in the Technical University in Ljubljana in 1941. From 1943 he was active in OF (resistance against nacism). In January 1944 he joined the partisans, was captured the same year and imprisoned in Begunje prison and later in Mauthausen concentration camp. After his liberation from the camp, he got a job at the Jesenice Ironworks and graduated from the Technical University in 1946. In the autumn of 1946, he enrolled in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ljubljana, majoring in mechanical engineering. Already the following year he became an assistant in the subjects Mechanics and Continuum Mechanics and graduated in 1952. During his studies he was already intensively involved in the construction of cranes in the department of transport equipment. After graduation, he became a full-time assistant for transportation equipment and elevators. After three years of work at the Faculty, he got a job at Metalna Maribor as an independent designer of cranes and transportation equipment. During this time, he completed professional specializations abroad, namely at the companies Girak (cable cars) and SGP (elevator construction) in Vienna and Pohling (construction of complex transport equipment) in Cologne. In 1959 he returned to the Faculty of Engineering, where he was elected assistant professor. In 1967 he defended his dissertation in the field of special gear tooth forms with concave-convex adaptation of tooth flanks. In 1968 he was elected associate professor and in 1976 full professor.
Prof. Dr. Jože Hlebanja represented the generation of post-war engineers, who at that time played a decisive role in the industrialization of the country. As a designer, he did pioneer work in the field of cable cars. He was the designer of the largest cable cars in the former Yugoslavia. He developed the domestic type of ski lifts in Kranjska Gora and Pohorje. He researched the connection of cabins with hauling ropes in circular ropeways and developed a system that was also adopted by the Austrian company Girak. He designed several shipyard and harbour cranes, including the distinctive 45-tone crane at the May 3 shipyard in Rijeka.
The greatest scientific contribution was made by Prof. Dr. Jože Hlebanja with the development of gears with a special tooth shape. He worked on the possibility of using mathematically defined curves for the design of the tooth flanks. The new tooth flank shape has improved lateral and root strength and better tribological properties than the conventional involute tooth. He has published about seventy scientific and technical articles and is the co-author of eight patents, two of which are international.
In the former country, he was a co-founder of the Yugoslav Society for Machine Elements and Design. In the study of mechanical engineering at the domestic faculty, he introduced three new fields: design, technology and power engineering. He introduced the subjects of Tribology and Design methodology into the study programs, which were completely new in the field of mechanical engineering in the country at that time. Continuing the pedagogical work, he also introduced the subjects of Woodcutting and agricultural machinery. At Prof. Hlebanja more than 100 graduates graduated, he was also mentor of Masters and Doctors of Science. He wrote several university textbooks in the field of machine elements and design methodology.
At the domestic faculty he headed the mechanical engineering laboratory. He worked in various commissions, was for a time head of the Department of Design and Working Machines, and from 1974 to 1976 was also Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana. He was a member of various domestic and foreign associations in the field of mechanical engineering also IFToMM. Finally, his legacy in the field of design are five laboratories of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, which comprehensively cover the field of mechanical and instrument engineering/ construction of machines and devices.
In 1991 he retired and was appointed Professor Emeritus of the University of Ljubljana. Even after his retirement, he did not neglect his research work in the field of gears with a special tooth form.
For his work he was awarded the Order of Labour with Golden Wreath. In 1976 he received the Award of the Boris Kidrič Fund and in 1989 the Golden Plaque of the University of Ljubljana. For his work in the International Committee of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, he received the Grand Decoration of Honor of the Austrian State and the Golden Plaque of ZZB NOB.
Prof. Dr. Jože Hlebanja is best described by a Latin proverb: E fructu arbour cognoscitur - we recognise a tree by its fruits. His tradition will be continued by future generations of experts at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana.
Prof. dr. Mihael Sekavčnik
Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ljubljana