By: Mark Vruno
Benzion “Benny” Landa likes keeping secrets.
His first company, Indigo N.V., was founded in 1977 and operated in secret for 16 years before unveiling its first product — what would become known as the Indigo digital press, now owned by HP. His current firm, Landa Corp. (landanano.com), operates out of a windowless lab facility in Rehovot, Israel, near Tel Aviv.
In late 2011, rumors began circulating about a new “nano ink” technology Landa was developing. In January, Middle Eastern news outlet ynetnews.com published a report about the mysterious Landa Labs, titled “Benny Landa’s invisible ink.”
According to the article, written by Naama Sikuler and Assaf Gilad, “The print technology that Landa plans to unveil in May is expected to do for printers what HD did for TV screens: Landa developed an ink made of particles which are smaller than a germ, and a printhead that can use the micro-droplets to print on virtually any material, producing sharp and rich images unparalleled by any manmade machine.” The story detailed how Landa was staffing a team of “150 super-engineers and theoretical physicists” out of his own pocket in the effort to invent nanometric ink.
The real buzz began some 30 days before the quadrennial drupa show opened its doors, when the official news announcements were distributed. Then on May 3, the industry finally got a good look-see at a half-dozen trademarked nanographic printing presses, which, according to Landa, offer the versatility of digital with the qualities and speed of offset printing at an unmatched cost per page. The nanographic presses can print on any off-the-shelf substrate, from coated and uncoated paper stocks and recycled carton, to newsprint and plastic packaging films.
Unveiled were three sheetfed machines designed for commercial printing and packaging applications, offering B3, B2, and B1 format sizes with a print speed of up to 11,000 sheets per hour. In addition, three web-fed models cover a size of 530 to 1,040 mm and claim to reach speeds of up to 656 feet per minute. Landa said these printing machines cover all possible applications in commercial print, book, and magazine printing, direct mail, labels, folded box, and flexible packaging for food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and more.
The extremely fine pigments of Landa’s trademarked NanoInk deliver performance on three fronts: 1) an ultra-sharp, identical pressure point; 2) maximum coverage; and 3) the widest gamut in CMYK color spectrum at resolutions of 600 to 1,200 dpi.
The Landa W50 web press enables publishers and high-volume commercial printers to cost-effectively manage large-page-volume short and medium runs. The groundbreaking nanographic technology enables high coverage, just-in-time printing on any off-the-shelf media without pre-treatment and post-drying on paper. Also allowing for premium services such as personalization, the W50 model extends print offerings and increases bottom lines for users.
“Nanography is a new technology for applying ink to paper,” Landa said. “In developing Landa Nanographic Printing we had to rethink and reinvent the printing press. The result is digital printing with remarkable performance — from a family of presses that share stunning ergonomic design, a small footprint, and some of the most advanced user functionality available in the market.”
Don’t Laugh at Landa
Suffice it to say that the inventor of the Indigo digital press stole the show at drupa, this time with a product that was the envy of competitors and a feather in the cap of public relations and marketing planners. He cemented alliances with manroland, Komori, and Heidelberg. But it wasn’t always this way for Landa, who now holds more than 170 U.S. patents (some 700 worldwide) and counting. Once, his industry peers laughed at him and his newfangled printing invention.
That was in 1993, when digital skeptics scoffed at an early Indigo iteration called the E-Print 1000 because its toner rubbed off the paper at GRAPH EXPO in Chicago. Landa got the last laugh, of course, when Hewlett- Packard purchased Indigo for more than $880 million in stock and cash nine years later. At this trade show, one-time naysayers listened intently and did not laugh unless the gregarious Landa smiled — which, thankfully, he does a lot.
Many assumed Landa was resting on his laurels and enjoying his fortune. Out of respect, HP would ask him to speak on occasion, as an “advisor” to the company, but this was a formality for the figurehead, the self-proclaimed “father of digital commercial printing” and the face of Indigo, the little digital press that could. Landa, however, is restless and not yet content to retire or even semi-retire. The innovator has been busy. “The Landa nanographic printing process is the result of 10 years of nanotechnology research,” he said. “It is a true breakthrough that enables our presses to achieve amazing results.”
What was heard coming out of Düsseldorf is microscopic in nature. After all, nanotech is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Particles are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. What Landa Corp. and Landa Labs have discovered is that nano-sized pigments have extraordinary qualities: They become amazingly powerful colorants, enabling an entirely new kind of digital printing (see below).
Over the years, Landa has provided pithy sound bites and quotations for print industry journalists such as yours truly. During the initial Indigo rollout in 1993, he prophesied, “Everything that can become digital will become digital. Printing is no exception.” Two years ago, his advice to the commercial printers of the world was neither surprising nor an exception: “Get digital or get out.” When asked whether he thinks long print runs for catalogs and magazines will continue in the future, Landa provided a telling response for printed newspapers as well.
“Nothing is forever,” Landa said. “Eventually, many printed products as we know them will disappear, including daily newspapers, books, magazines, and certainly catalogs. But don’t hold your breath. Printing has been around for 500 years — and paper for 5,000 years. It won’t be replaced by iPads overnight. But you can be sure that these four categories of printed products will be among the first to go.”
So what role will this new, web-fed press play in the printed newspaper transformation? Landa contends that nanography will create new business opportunities for providers of any type of printing in the commercial, packaging, and publishing markets.
“If you can operate a smartphone, you can operate a nano press,” Landa said. In fact, the user interface looks and acts like a giant iPhone, as print industry guru Frank Romano wrote in a blog for research firm InfoTrends, adding that “manroland also had one as interesting, but Landa got all the attention.”
Although shown at drupa, these six presses won’t be commercially available until late 2013. “Nanographic printing presses are not intended to replace offset printing, but to complement it,” Landa said. “For the foreseeable future, offset printing will continue to be the preferred method for producing run lengths of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. But the market is demanding shorter and shorter run lengths — and that’s where nanography comes in — to enable print service providers to produce those short- to medium-run lengths economically — at offset speeds. That’s what we mean when we say that Landa nanographic printing brings digital to the mainstream.”
While Landa sees nanography’s best fit in book, magazine, manual, and direct mail color publishing applications, its low cost-per-page color printing ability on any paper without pre-treatment or post-drying requirements, may make it a good candidate for short run regional or personalized color newspaper applications. Newspaper publishers that run an abundance of color inserts or take on outside color work will likely find nanographic printing’s high ink coverage with vibrant colors and sharp images and text to be appealing. Product line and segment manager Eliza Leung said Landa is interested in exploring the business potential and economics for newspaper customers and welcomes relevant inquiries.
The Nanographic Process
At the heart of nanography are water-based NanoInk colorants that comprise ultra-small pigment particles only tens of nanometers in size. (A human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide.) In comparison, good-quality offset inks have a particle size of approximately 500 nanometers. These nano-pigments are extremely powerful absorbers of light and enable unprecedented image qualities.
Landa nanographic printing presses employ ink ejectors to create digital ink images that get applied to the printing stock in a process that can operate at extremely high speeds. Delivered by inkjet heads, the ink in nanographic images is only 500 nanometers thick — about half the thickness of offset images — translating to lower ink cost. The ink will ship as a concentrate — just add tap water.
Nanographic printing begins with the ejection of billions of microscopic droplets of water-based Landa NanoInk onto a heated blanket conveyor belt. Each droplet of aqueous NanoInk lands at a precise location on the belt, creating the color image. As the water evaporates, the ink becomes an ultra-thin, dry polymeric film.
The resulting image is then transferred to any kind of ordinary paper, coated or uncoated, or onto any plastic packaging film — without requiring pre-treatment. The NanoInk film image instantaneously bonds to the surface, forming a tough, abrasion-resistant laminated layer without leaving any residual ink on the blanket.
Because NanoInk images are already dry, there is no need for post drying. Two-sided printing is simplified and printed goods can be immediately handled, right off the press, even in the most aggressive finishing equipment.
While Landa Corp. claims the water-based process is energyefficient and eco-friendly, “Questions remain about the recyclability of @landanano printed materials and the lifecycle environmental impacts of NanoInk,” tweeted Don Carli, director of the Institute for Sustainable Communication in New York (@dcarli).
More drupa Highlights
Dow Jones Tests WSJ Asia Inkjet Edition
At the Messe fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, TKS ran its JETLEADER 1500, printing The Wall Street Journal daily on the same inkjet press that also is producing the WSJ Asia edition as part of a 12- month test agreement with the publisher that began in mid-April. The TKS IGA Techno Center is digitally producing the newspaper for some locations in the Osaka area where Dow Jones wants to have more local production. WSJ Asia in Japan had previously been printed in Tokyo and transferred the 300 miles by train or plane.
“We look at this as an opportunity to get in important markets that we currently have to transport the product from a regional offset print center,” said operations vice president Joe Vincent. “Instead of having the product being delivered hours later, it will be delivered first thing in the morning. This will enable us to have the product produced locally; content will be much more current and up to date, and the cost will be significantly less. This (is) the first time anywhere in the world a multi-section newspaper is being produced on an inkjet press.”
TKS chairman Kohei Shiba said his company was excited to take on the challenge. “TKS is thrilled to validate this new technology with the help of Dow Jones,” he said. “One of the main reasons we developed the JETLEADER was for applications like this. We spent two years in R&D with this press and introduced it to the world last year. This opportunity will assist us in proving the business model for companies that need to upgrade their existing equipment and produce a wide range of new products with one press.”
The JETLEADER was introduced in 2011 after two years of in-house testing and development. The dropon- demand, web-fed press can print a multitude of multi-section broadsheet newspaper and commercial products and formats finished inline. The press can run on a variety of substrates and uses water-based, pigmented ink.
Ongoing Quest to Eliminate Waste
Reflecting its long-held commitment to help printers and publishers enhance efficiency and drive waste reduction, Goss International used the drupa show to emphasize its Mission Zero initiative and accelerate interest in the objective. Already a fundamental part of every printing solution designed by Goss, Mission Zero directly addresses the need for print operations to improve competitiveness and reduce environmental impact. As such, the initiative focuses on developing products and process-optimized systems, along with controls, to create seamless integration throughout the entire print production chain — from reelstand to finished product.
“Our drive toward zero waste has delivered dramatic progress and benefits for our customers in recent years,” said Jeff Upchurch, senior vice president of Goss research & development and service. “Our focus is on supporting them with continuous, incremental steps toward an ultimate goal of eliminating any wasted materials, labor, time, or cost.”
Upchurch said a significant number of solutions displayed in Düsseldorf incorporate technology and automation to meet zero-waste goals. “At the same time, drupa affords us the opportunity to demonstrate the performance benefits of web offset across an array of applications, such as newspapers, magazines, advertising inserts, catalogs, direct marketing, and packaging,” he added.
For example, the Goss Colorliner CPS compact-tower press features a specialized cylinder and roller arrangement that creates a natural flow and circulation of air within the printing unit for optimum heat dissipation. This eliminates the need for expensive additional cooling systems and allows users to avoid unnecessary power and energy costs.
Also in evidence at drupa was Goss’s pioneering gapless blanket technology, which allows high-quality, high-speed printing on wider webs, and delivers a significant reduction in paper waste through minimal trim requirements and shorter cut-offs. Visitors to the Goss booth saw the technology on the 96-page Sunday 5000 printing unit.
Kodak to Resell CTP Workflow Solution
Kodak continues to develop new computer-to-plate (CTP) solutions and technology partnerships that deliver integrated solutions for prepress departments. At drupa, the firm selected wobe-team’s wNewsNet as a workflow complement to its industry-leading CTP newspaper publishing portfolio.
wNewsNet is an integrated solution for managing digital production data in a newspaper prepress department. It enables the automation of plate production, data control, and data processing. wNewsNet offers a comprehensive newspaper workflow solution, including PDF management tools with preflight and correct functionality, color-consistent soft proofing tools, ink-saving benefits with the PDF-InkAdjust feature, and third-party integration capabilities to deliver a fully automatic production system.
“This worldwide agreement between Kodak and wobe-team GmbH underscores Kodak’s commitment to our newspaper customers,” said Nathanael Eijbersen, Kodak’s global current marketing manager, newspaper segment offset solutions. “Like Kodak, wobe-team understands the importance of supporting the dynamic requirements of the newspaper market. This collaboration delivers clients a one-stop, scalable newspaper software solution that complements their CTP investment.”
wNewsNet is specifically designed to address newspaper requirements and support the complete prepress life cycle. The software is also designed to be scalable and to grow with customers, so all the features are available in the software’s core. Flexibility allows customers to scale their system as needed, without installing different software or learning a new system.
Roller Plant Is Recognized (Again)
For the fifth consecutive year, Page purchasing cooperative assigned its platinum supplier award to Pamarco Global Graphics, manufacturer of the Diamond roller. Designed to recognize and reward Page preferred suppliers who have performed at a superior level throughout the past year, the criteria include quality and service performance scores, yearly purchasing totals, year-over-year sales growth, and competitive pricing. Page Co-op, in operation since 1984, has a nationwide membership with members in all 50 states including more than 600 daily newspapers and over 1,100 non-day publishing facilities.