Posts Tagged ‘Benny Landa’

  • Benny Landa: the drupa interview – Print21 Magazine Feature

    He’s back and, appropriately enough, the Landa stand at drupa was by far the busiest. The ‘Second Coming’ of Benny Landa, with a revolutionary print process, captivated drupa visitors to the point where the 300-seat audience, five-per-day theatre demos had to be relayed to a giant display screen for another 1,000 or more people to witness. Andy McCourt was fortunate to score some time with master showman and inventor, Benny Landa, after a hard day’s presenting.

    Andy McCourt (AM): Benny, thanks for granting this interview. When I last interviewed you it was 1998 and Indigo was in its ascendancy. Back then you said that the main barriers to wider adoption of digital printing were sheet size, speed and cost-per-page. Is it fair to say you have overcome these barriers with the new Nanographic presses?

    Benny Landa (BL): Yes, I think that it’s fair to say that. Our B1 and B2 Nanographic Printing presses overcome the issue of sheet size. They also offer the high speed and low cost-per-page needed to profitably run jobs, whether they are for a run of hundreds or thousands of sheets.

    AM: With Landa Nanographic presses running at up to 13,000 sheets-per hour, have you reached the sweet spot in the offset-to-digital break-even equation?

    BL: As I say in our theatre presentation, it will be a long time before digital technology will replace offset for large print runs of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of sheets. But Nanographic Printing presses do enable economic production of the short-to-medium run lengths, from just a few sheets up to thousands of B1 sheets. This is what customers of commercial printers need, but it’s been an area that is particularly difficult to print profitably whether you’re printing digital or offset. Nanography offers a third way, a way to print profitably.

    AM: By the time Landa Nanographic Printing Presses come to market in late 2013, do you think any of the other digital technologies will have caught up for speed?

    BL: There are already inkjet web presses for books and transactional printing that print thousands of pages per minute, but they require special coated or treated paper that is more expensive. This increases the cost-per-page and reduces the profit-per-page. Landa presses print on any kind of paper or substrate and offer the lowest cost-per-page of any digital printing process.

    AM: Landa has, of course, also shown web commercial and packaging Nanographic Printing presses at drupa in 560 mm and 1,040 mm widths and running at 200 metres-per-minute. Some may say this is fast enough for digital – is it?

    BL: For publishing, you need even faster speeds and we will go faster. Also, for transactional inkjet, ink coverage is only a few per cent. This is in contrast to publishing where you need to print colour pages with tens and hundreds of per cent ink coverage. This is problematic for inkjet as there are drying and cockling issues from the inability of the special coatings to absorb high volumes of ink and come out dry. The Landa W5, W10 and W50 web presses print on any kind of paper. When the prints emerge from the press, they are completely dry and can be immediately finished inline or offline.

    AM: On the topic of inline finishing, most digital web presses already installed have varieties of inline finishing from third parties. Will your web presses remain reel-to-reel or will Landa offer complete end-to-end solutions?

    BL: We already have inline finishing from Hunkeler but we couldn’t fit it on the theatre stage with the other press. By the time we start installing presses, we will offer total solutions and co-operate with partners, even if they are competitors. We have developed a sheeter ourselves, but for custom finishing we will rely on partners and offer total solutions.

    AM: Turning to ink, Ink World magazine estimates the global ink market to be worth over US$12 billion and this is mostly oil-based. With aqueous inks, one of the problems for original manufacturers is third-parties hacking into their markets with substitute inks, often inferior ones. Are you confident that Landa NanoInk’s future position in the world ink market is safe?

    BL: I think the global ink market is somewhat larger than $12 billion. With the third-party inks, let me put it this way: Indigo, which I sold to HP, is clearly the market leader in digital printing. As far as I know, not one single drop of ink has been supplied to an Indigo customer by any other vendor. Customers know what works well for them and with their presses. With Landa NanoInk we are talking about the lowest cost of printing and of ink in the digital printing industry. I expect that it will be a very long time before we have to deal with alternative ink vendors.

    AM: Is the ink concentrate mixed with water by your resellers?

    BL: No, no, the inks are mixed in the presses’ ink cabinets. They take the ink concentrate and accurately blend it with normal tap water that has been filtered and de-ionized.

    AM: So it will not matter what additives are in the water, such as fluoride, chlorine, metals, saltiness etc?

    BL: The two things that purify water are filtering and de-ionizing. The system we have on the presses takes care of this, which further reduces the ink cost for the customer.

    AM: Moving onto partnerships, you announced three major Nanography license agreements at drupa – Komori, manroland and Heidelberg in that order. They will integrate the Nanographic Printing process into presses of their own design. Will there be more announcements in the near future? Will all the presses be different?

    BL: We are talking to many companies in the industry and I think that we will reach agreements with more vendors. Each company will integrate Nanography into its own presses and they will differentiate themselves from one another.

    AM: Ten years of R&D into Nanography is a lot of cost and I understand this has been funded by yourself. With license agreements being signed I presume revenue has started, but when do you think the business will be profitable; one year, two, five?

    BL: I don’t know and it’s not critical. We have schedules to begin production, but if it takes one year or more or one year less, it’s not critical either. The important thing is to get it right. We don’t have investors. It’s my company and I take the risk.

    AM: Is that how you initially started and funded Indigo as well, on your own?

    BL: You once wrote about the Australian inventor of liquid toner, Ken Metcalfe; I didn’t invent liquid toner, Ken Metcalfe did. I had the great privilege of meeting him in the early 1970s. With Indigo, we started our liquid toner research where Ken Metcalfe left off – and we got great patents. Over time every copier company in the world had to become licensed from us because of our patents. That yielded over $200 million in license fees, which funded more than ten years of R&D to create the world’s first digital printing press. HP acquired Indigo from me and that funded the past ten years of R&D.

    AM: So you’re not concerned about the length of time to get Nanographic Presses and NanoInks to market? Will you let some technologies enter the market prematurely?

    BL: No, I made that mistake once. In the early days of Indigo, we did not have the money to sustain years of in-house improvement and development, so our factory began shipping presses before they were fully ready. Although the first machines weren’t reliable, we stuck with our customers and made an absolute commitment to “get it right”. They stayed with us because our service technician was with the customer day and night if necessary. Without that type of commitment, we would never have survived. But with Nanography it’s different; we have the resources to get it ready for market in-house and we will.

    AM: With no investors, corporate boards, private equity and so forth?

    BL: Someone once said that nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. That’s what happens in big companies; everybody gets a chance to come up with reasons why not to do something. They feel their job is at risk if they say yes and then don’t deliver. We don’t have that approach at Landa; everyone is on a mission to succeed.

    AM: I can feel the inspiration in your stand! The atmosphere is so positive. I have to move on to a subject with which digital printing has a love-hate relationship: the click charge. Will you use the click charge model for Nanographic Printing presses?

    BL: Yes, we will supply presses and supply ink, service and parts on the basis of the click-charge model. Do you know why? Because the customers we’re talking to want the click-charge model. It is easier to manage pricing and real costs using click-charges; the customer knows exactly what each impression costs and can better manage their overall finances. This isn’t because they are bad business people and can’t accurately manage costs. It’s very difficult to know your true costs on a job because, for example, ink coverage changes so much. You can quote a job and when the file arrives discover that you will use four times as much ink as you expected. It’s simply easier to manage a click-charge than to manage all of your costs. I expect that our partners Komori, manroland and Heidelberg will conclude the same thing: while their customers don’t initially like click-charges, they will come to appreciate the importance of knowing exactly what their costs will be.

    AM: Does the click-charge model also enable offset printers to determine at what quantity they will print offset or digital with Nanography?

    BL: Yes, the click-charge model lets printers more easily decide whether to make plates and print offset or send the file directly to a digital press. We say that Landa Nanography is digital for mainstream and it is; it will open new and profitable markets for commercial printers up to around 5,000-8,000 B1 sheets. Nanography will give them the lowest cost per page of any digital process.

    AM: Benny, it has been great to talk with you. One last question: would you consider coming over to Melbourne and speaking at our Pacprint show next year?

    BL: I’d love to come to Australia, but I can’t guarantee it. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

    AM: But we can invite you?

    BL: Sure. Send me an invitation.

  • Drupa Snooper – The time has come

    Drupa 2012 is just two days away, the time has indeed come. But as Andy McCourt – the drupa Snooper – asks: is it not time to also step back and have a long hard think about how our industry will function in the years beyond this pivotal drupa? Here he looks at two major influences – the firm that virtually started drupa and one that could spell the end of offset printing as we know it.

    “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax;
    Of cabbages and kings”

    –       From The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Caroll

    Drupa 2012 is the fifteenth ‘Druck’ (engl: print) and ‘Papier’ exhibition to be held in Germany. The first was in 1951 although pre-war, there were many industry trade fairs held in Leipzig under the name ‘Bugra’ (Buch and Grafik). The somewhat fortuitous name change and relocation to Düsseldorf was driven by a giant of print media, Hubert Sternberg, who was also a board member of Heidelberg. Sternberg was the trade fair’s President for the first five shows.

    Drupa 1951 drew around 195,000 visitors and was spread over 18,000 square metres of exhibition space. 61 years later, drupa once again has a Heidelberg President – Bernard Schreier – and will cover about 165,000 square metres with an expected 380,000 attendees. As the West’s printing industry shrinks, and Asia’s grows, many of these attendees will be from the growth markets of China, India and FSU.

    Following the show’s opening on Thursday, there will be a torrent of news and revelations to be digested but my feeling is that never before have we seen such a shift in the technology, economics, geo-politics and sociological implications of Print Media. Can you believe that drupa 1962 was tagged ‘The Offset drupa?’ As late as 1982, the highlight was ‘Web Offset.’ Both of these forces were evolutionary developments of a process started around 1904.

    Now, the force is not evolutionary; it’s revolutionary. “The time has come,” as the Walrus said to the Carpenter in Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “to talk of many things.”

     

    NANOGRAPHIC PRINTING

    Although the introduction of Landa Nanographic Printing has been covered before in drupa Snooper, it continues to fixate the eyes of the world printing community. You can’t write about the Olympics and 100 metre sprinting without mentioning Usain Bolt, and the same applies to digital printing and Benny Landa. Since breaking the news to the world about Landa Labs and Nanography in January, two significant partnership deals have been announced. Both Komori and manroland sheetfed have signed up to incorporate Landa Nanography in their digital press strategies. In the case of Komori, the company was already supplying the paper handling tech to Landa much in the same way that Ryobi once supplied press chassis and feed for the Indigo.

    What in essence is the magnetic force drawing two of the world’s largest offset press manufacturers towards the Nanographic process? Well here I have to enter the murky realm of speculation because the process itself will not be fully revealed until tomorrow.

    My belief is that Landa Nanography does not use the inkjet heads to jet the image directly to paper. The term used by the company: ‘ink ejectors’ and the ability to print on any offset stock – even plastic – without inkjet receptive coatings leads me to believe that the piezo printheads create a reverse image on a blanket cylinder, which is then impressed into the substrate. Variable data can still be achieved in the same way as Landa’s prior invention – Indigo – achieves it by an almost total release of ink from blanket (or OPC) to substrate and then a doctor-blade system to catch any micro particles that remain behind. So, it uses inkjet digitally but off-sets the image – it’s Offset on steroids!

    If I am right, this is why the big offset companies are rushing to sign up – because it can be incorporated into existing basic press designs. In one fell swoop, Komori and manroland can build presses that use no plates, are environmentally attractive since the ink is water-based, and can benefit from digital workflows. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

    Ultra high speeds and long print runs will remain the domain of offset for a while, but with the market fragmentation and higher speeds achievable using digital inkjet, we could be looking at a tectonic shift away from pure offset – to Nanography.

    Has the time come? Maybe we will be the wiser by the end of this momentous drupa, but I can say with certainty that the time has come to re-think how we run printing businesses in Australia and New Zealand. Our shorter print runs make digital process all the more compelling, and Nanography is about to take more than a quantum leap in digital productivity – up to 11,000 B1 sheets per hour is claimed. That is most likely in simplex mode but still equates to 1,466 A4 pages per minute!

    Look out for more reports from the Landa Nanography stand itself – and a rare and hard-to-get interview with the man himself.

     

    HEIDELBERG

    No graphic arts trade fair is complete without Heidelberg and drupa has Heidelberg DNA all over it. Halls 1 and 2 are traditionally all-Heidelberg stadiums and indeed, are once more at this drupa 2012, but with Hall 2 occupied by affiliated or owned companies. When Snooper #10 comes your way, I will be snooping directly from the show floor and aim to apply the microscope to Halls 1 and 2. What we do know is that Heidelberg’s digital strategy with Ricoh will go forward in earnest – but with the presses branded ‘Heidelberg Linoprint C-xx.’ I believe the two are very good partners in that Ricoh builds great digital machines and Heidelberg has a great global network of customers, plus the Prinect workflow.

    What bothers me is that digital productivity stops short at around 90 ppm, and no announcement (yet) has been made for a B2 or bigger digital press. Unless Heidelberg can access the Screen-built Infoprint 5000 digital web press, it does not have high-volume inkjet either. The only inkjet it has is the Linoprint L-xx short run packaging presses built in the old Linotype-Hell factory in Kiel.

    Unless an announcement is made during drupa, Heidelberg could be missing out on two of the fastest growing areas of print media today. I have no doubt that customers for the Linoprint C series will be happy and very well looked after, but what’s next for the Baden-Württemberg giant? Its three major competitors have announced high-volume digital inkjet game plans, plus B2 and even B1 digital presses. Of course the announcements of new Speedmaster SX offset models can not be overlooked, nor can Heidelberg’s excellence in the finishing department – which can apply to offset or digital. Heidelberg states that it is “showing printers how to integrate digital into offset production,” and this is very good but – how long before Offset needs to integrate into Digital production?

    Is the ‘Big H’ taking a “wait and see” approach to faster, wider digital? Perhaps the time has come for our industry’s flagship manufacturer to “talk of many things” and “of shoes and ships and sealing wax; of cabbages and (especially) Kings.”

    There I will leave drupa Snooper #9. I am drupa-bound very soon and look forward to bringing you the cold hard facts directly from Düsseldorf.