Robert D. Swain, the founder of pigment and color concentrate supplier Chroma Corp. and a member of the Plastics Pioneers and the Plastics Hall of Fame, passed away on April 21 in East China, Mich. at the age of 90.
An expert in the area of pigments and color additives used for plastic materials, Swain was a 1951 graduate of Lafayette College with a degree in chemical engineering. After graduation, Swain worked for the Bakelite Division of Union Carbide, and then for Union Carbide Plastics. Several years later, Swain accepted a sales management position with Exxon Chemical Company. While at Exxon, he developed and patented a number of polypropylene (PP) formulations that became widely used in both the automotive and appliance industries. He also developed talc reinforced PP grades as replacements for asbestos reinforced PP.
Swain left Exxon in 1967 to start Chroma Corp. in McHenry, Ill., and the company quickly developed masterbatch color concentrates with let down ratios of 20:1, which greatly improved the economics associated with colorant use. Chroma’s business expanded greatly over the years through increased sales and acquisition, including the 1999 purchase of liquid color supplier Injecta Color. Chroma was also the first color compounding company to offer custom formulated colorants to the pharmaceutical industry.
In 1978, Swain was invited to join the prestigious Plastics Pioneers Association and later served as its managing director. He was also inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2009, becoming only the second person from the color-compounding sector to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.
Swain and several of his family members sold Chroma in 2016 to Tom Bolger, current CEO of the newly formed Chroma Color Corporation and Chuck Heller, son of the late Peter Heller, who was one of the company’s first investors in 1967. Today, Chroma Color, Breen Color Concentrates, Carolina Color and Hudson Color are owned by private equity firm Arsenal Capital Partners, operating under the name Chroma Color Corp.
“He was a great guy. He was bigger than life,” said Chroma Color Corporation, CEO Tom Bolger. “He was an extraordinarily generous person, generous with tangible things and also generous with compliments and praise and time. He was very passionate. He believed very strongly in things. You don’t have to look too far if you Google his name.”
A remembrance gathering will take place May 25 at Randall Funeral Home in Marysville, Mich., at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at Voyageur Restaurant in St. Clair, Mich. In lieu of flowers, the family would like people to consider making donations to the Blue Water Hospice.
Content Credit to Canadian Plastics and Plastics News