Plastics extrusion pioneer Lucien Davis Yokana, 89, of Princeton, N.J. and Biddeford Pool, Maine, died of natural causes Sept. 29 surrounded by his family in Princeton.
Yokana founded Sterling Extruder Corp. which was one of the powerhouse extrusion companies in the 1960s. At the time, a machine order from Owens Illinois for 360 4½ and 6-inch extruders was one of the largest received in the industry.
“Owens Illinois wanted delivery over five years. It was back when they were making the transition from glass to plastics,” said his son Sandy Guthrie, who had worked with father at Sterling. Guthrie is the president of ADG Solutions of Fairfield, Conn.
”An order like that was pretty rare,” he added, noting that an order for 10 to 20 was a big order.
Yokana started Sterling Extruder in 1959 in Linden, N.J., moving it to South Plainfield in 1969.
Yokana was on the leading edge of compounding and blown film. He was the inventor of the Sterlex screw, which was one of the first barrier screws in the market, and was credited with increasing flow rates and starting to control melt temperatures.
He was also part of the movement to change the industry screw ratio from 24/1 length/diameter to 30/1 in the late 1970s.
Yokana was always working to improve machinery and in the late 1970s, his blow molding division was a pioneer in large-part accumulator head technology. Sterling became part of Baker Perkins North America Inc. in 1986.
He also acquired Davis Electric in 1968, which later joined with Merritt Extruder to become Merritt Davis, which was noted for its advanced winding technology in wire and cable. It was among the first companies involved with fiber optics. He remained chairman of the company until it was sold to Davis Standard LLC in 2005.
He was known for his sheet line design, which was popular for over 20 years.
“Whenever you had a process question about a system, you could call him and he would rattle off all that could be going wrong,” said Guthrie.
“It was second nature for him. He grew up doing things no one had done. Everything was new then and you learned by making mistakes. The lab was allows going six days a week at Sterling,” he added.
Guthrie added that his father was always the gentleman, loved music and a cocktail, and had an uncanny ability to tell a joke.
Yokana was a 1948 Princeton University graduate and was active in its alumni festivities right until his final days. His career started at Johnson & Johnson and Hartig Machine as a machine designer.
He is survived by his brother Andre Yokana, two sons, Sandy Guthrie and Lucien Guthrie, and three daughters, Ariane Peixoto, Isabelle Yokana and Alice Barfield.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 10 at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton.