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Paul Colby, Spirex Corp. founder and plasticizing systems component innovator, dies at 86

Entrepreneur who built Spirex Corporation was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2009.


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March 11, 2015 by Canadian Plastics

Paul Colby.

Paul Colby.

Plastics industry veteran Paul N. Colby, an entrepreneur and a 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 Youngstown, Ohio-based Spirex Corporation from a small screw company with his wife Illene in 1978 into an internationally recognized business when it was acquired by Xaloy Corporation (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 many 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 served as the company’s chairman until the Xaloy acquisition.

A graduate of Princeton University in 1950 with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Colby served two years in the U.S. Navy as radio and signal officer on the USS Rendova. He then joined Winner Manufacturing as an engineer, where he designed, built, and helped test a pontoon bridge for the U.S. made largely from reinforced plastic. At the time, at sixty-feet in length, it was one of the largest reinforced plastics 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 Corporation’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 in 1978.