Norton C. Wheeler Jr., who joined Davis-Standard in 1951 and enjoyed a career that spanned six decades, died Sept. 29 at his home in Mystic, Conn., the city where he was born in 1921. He was 96.
One of his accomplishments was designing and patenting the DSB feedscrew (Davis-Standard Barrier) in the early 1980s. The DSB continues to be the basis for all Davis-Standard screw types, the company said. The screw design overcame limitations of existing barrier screws by optimizing the screw's melt region, leading to improved stability and performance. The DSB gave the company an international presence, and also helped it expand into multiple processing areas such as pipe and profile, and sheet.
Wheeler received the Bruce Maddock Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers' Extrusion Division in 1998 for his pioneering work in research and development. SPE named him a fellow of the association in 1985.
Wheeler wrote numerous technical papers and he mentored many Davis-Standard engineers.
Even after he retired from the Pawcatuck, Conn.-based company in 1989, Wheeler remained as a consultant to the company until the age of 90.
“I was honored to know Norton and work alongside him for so many years,” John Christiano, Davis-Standard's vice president of extrusion technology, said. “He was a great mind, problem-solver and infinite resource. He was also a wonderful human being, always willing to give of himself in his modest way. Our R&D capabilities and leadership began with Norton, and he remained so vital to our work throughout his life. His achievements not only defined Davis-Standard as an R&D leader, but they changed the industry. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.”
Being part of Davis-Standard was in Wheeler's blood. His grandfather, Charles E. Wheeler, was an original owner of Davis-Standard, purchasing the business in 1904 as the Standard Machinery Co. His father, Norton C. Wheeler Sr. and his uncle John were instrumental in assisting their father with modernizing and diversifying the company. Under the leadership of Norton Sr., who was company president in the 1940s, and his new partner Benjamin Davis, the company made the transition from the manufacturing of compression molding presses in the 1940s before and during World War II, into a post-war builder of extrusion machinery. The company became Davis-Standard in 1948.
Norton Wheeler Jr. joined Davis-Standard in 1951 after serving in the U.S. Air Force, serving with the 415th Night Fighter Squadron. He graduated from Brown University with a chemistry degree.
He spearheaded Davis-Standard's first lab in the 1960s. During the following 20 years, he conducted groundbreaking research on feedscrew design and extrusion process control.
According to the company, out of all his achievements, Wheeler was most proud that Davis-Standard was the first company to fully instrument an extruder with multiple pressure transducers.
Wheeler was preceded in death of his wife of 69 years, Mary Anderson Wheeler. They met when they both were counselors at a music camp in New England and they shared a lifelong love of music. He played clarinet and sax in various jazz bands.
He is survived by five children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.