Paul N. Colby, a plastics industry leader in the design and production of screws, barrels and front-end components for plasticizing systems, died on March 7. He was 86.
Colby built Spirex Corp. (Youngstown, OH) from a small screw company with his wife Illene in 1978 into an internationally recognized business, when it was acquired by Xaloy Corp. (now Nordson Xaloy) in 2009. That same year, he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame.
"Paul forever changed the screw and barrel industry by driving innovation, quality and process improvement," said David Hotchkiss, Nordson Xaloy Global Product Manager. "Rarely has our industry seen a man so well respected and admired by customers, competitors and employees."
Colby held numerous patents for plasticizing components. Under his direction, Spirex pioneered methods of screw design and production that resulted in processing advancements, led to higher quality parts and improved production for processors. Colby retired as president of Spirex in 1998 but continued to serve as chairman until the Xaloy acquisition.
Colby graduated from Princeton University in 1950 with a BSc in mechanical engineering. Following two years in the U.S. Navy, where he served as radio and signal officer on the USS Rendova, he joined Winner Manufacturing as an engineer. There he designed, built and helped test a pontoon bridge made largely from reinforced plastic. At the time, the 60-ft-long bridge was one of the largest reinforced plastic items ever built.
By the mid-1950s, Colby had decided he wanted to pursue a career in designing and manufacturing feed screw systems for plastics processing machinery. He went on to work for Sterling Extruder, Metropolitan Machinery, Davis Standard, Prodex and Union Electric Steel Corp.'s New Castle Industries. Ultimately he was appointed general manager of the Feed Screws Division of New Castle Industries. After eight years there, Colby struck out on his own to establish Spirex Corp. in 1978.