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Indigo visionary, Benny Landa, gets the Reed Technology medal

Friday, 24 October 2003
By Print 21 Online Article

The Reed Technology Medal is presented to an individual who has made a major contribution to technical and scientific development within the graphic arts industry. Landa is being honoured for his many scientific and technological inventions, which have advanced the development of colour digital printing.

Of the experiences that foreshadowed Landa’s eventual development of a digital color printing press, the first occurred when he was a youth in his father’s tobacco shop in Edmonton, Alberta. There he helped his father build a wooden photo machine and processing lab for the family’s growing passport photo business. Unlike the conventional photo studios, the “direct-positive” photo machine they built avoided the need for film— printing images directly on paper years before photo booths became commonplace.

In 1970, while living in England, Landa became a founding director of Imtec, a micrographics research and development company. Imtec later became the largest European vendor of micrographics equipment (microfilm readers and reader/printers). Landa led Imtec’s R&D activities and invented the company’s core imaging technology. While researching liquid toners at Imtec, he worked on a method of high-speed image development that would later lead to his invention of ElectroInk, Indigo’s proprietary liquid electrostatic printing medium.

When Landa founded Indigo in 1977, its original mission was to develop an improved photocopying process using an imaging medium based on the qualities of liquid printing ink, rather than powder toners. When ElectroInk became a reality in 1983, Landa pursued the idea of using it to replace the ink in offset printing, and thus make offset printing digital. A decade later Indigo launched the E-Print 1000, a plateless digital press combining Digital Offset Color printing technology and ElectroInk.

Commenting on Landa’s naming as the recipient of the Reed Medal, Dr. John Meyer, director, hardcopy technologies lab, HP Labs, said, “Throughout the years of Indigo’s history, Benny Landa was not simply the company’s founder and CEO. He has been Indigo’s visionary, its inspiration, its leader.” He is also Indigo’s most prolific inventor, with more than 140 U.S. patents—and a hundred more worldwide.

Landa’s nominators also focused on his pioneering technical and scientific contributions to digital printing, noting his extensive research on the chemistry and physics of using liquid toner electrophotography. Besides contributing to an improved understanding of the process, Landa is credited with improvements such as tentacular toner, which produces an image layer with higher cohesion and greater resistance to distortion through the interlocking of adjacent toner particles.

Landa’s study of the materials that contact the toner layers during image formation resulted in the optimization of such properties as surface energy and compliance. His pioneering work also led to developments such as a binary ink system separating the two steps of electrophoretic motion of the toner to achieve high speed and a high-viscosity image and a heated intermediate transfer offset blanket. Landa is also credited with spearheading numerous mechanical inventions, ranging from systems for controlling and distributing the liquid toner to those for paper handling and cleaning the photoconductor.

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