Posts Tagged ‘Landa’

  • Benny Landa scores €100 million investment

     German speciality chemical group Altana has stepped into the future of Nanography, the water-based digital printing process being developed by the Israeli-based ‘father of digital printing.’

    Describing the Landa digital printing development as a ‘game changer,’ Dr. Matthias Wolfgruber, CEO, Altana, has committed to a minority stake in Landa Digital Printing. The money will be used for completing the development of Nanography, including engineering and production ramp-up of printing presses and building of manufacturing plants for Nanoink colorants.

    “We are extremely excited to be partnering with an industry visionary like Benny Landa. We speak the same language in terms of innovation. I am confident that we are investing in a game-changing technology that can enable the printing industry to thrive in the 21st century and help our customers position themselves well for the future,” said Wolfgruber.

    'Game changing technology,' Matthias Wolfgruber, CEO Altana

    The German investment is solely focused on the Landa Digital Printing without any involvement in Landa’s other high-tech companies; Landa Labs and Landa Ventures. Altana wants to be an active partner, drawing on its print industry expertise gained from its divisions that manufacture additives and instruments, pigments and coatings and sealants.

    “We see our alliance with the Altana Group as a key milestone for our company and a strong vote of confidence in our mission to bring digital printing to mainstream commercial, packaging and publishing markets,” said Benny Landa, chairman and CEO of Landa Corporation. “Altana brings a wealth of relevant industry and market experience as well as worldwide manufacturing expertise, which will be of great value as we expand our presence globally.”

    Landa’s Nanography presses were first shown at last drupa in Dusseldorf in 2012. They are based on a revolutionary claim of being able to print using water-based nano-sized toner particles. In recent months the emphasis has shifted from commercial printing presses to the development of a packaging press. It is expected to be again shown at drupa in 2016 with beta models in use by next year.

    The groundbreaking technology is supposed to have attracted over a hundred million dollars in expressions of interest from printers when it was first shown.

     

     

  • In search of Benny – the prophet of Rehovot: Print21 Magazine feature

    By definition the future is unknown, but for some visionaries the blank page it provides is an opportunity to conjure dreams into existence. Such a one is Benny Landa, the father of digital printing. The inventor of the electro-ink printing process has been busy since he sold Indigo to Hewlett Packard in 2002, culminating in the launch of six Landa Nanographic presses at drupa in May. Since then not a lot has been heard from him, so Patrick Howard went to the Landa Labs at Rehovot, Israel, to discover how the future of printing is progressing.

    I first came to Israel in 1992 at the invitation of Benny (Ben Zion) Landa to witness the media launch of his Indigo digital printing press. In the rustic surrounds of a kibbutz north of Tel Aviv we were introduced to the revolutionary concept of high-end digital colour printing which, over the next two decades, was to transform the whole process of printing. With the zeal and belief of an old testament prophet, Benny Landa, in front of the assembled journalists, for the first time made his famous prediction: Everything that can go digital, will go digital.

    There were plenty of sceptics in the audience, journalists who were almost professional cynics inured to the false prophecies of technology. We may not have been able to foresee the flood of hype that would accompany the introduction of digital printing, not only from Indigo but from all the others that would soon follow, but we were not about to totally suspend our disbelief, not yet, not without seeing the presses and the process in operation.

    That opportunity came at the Ipex show in Birmingham the following month. With the showmanship that was to become his trademark, Benny Landa drew back the curtains on his Indigo digital press. The shows were packed and yes! we saw the presses output print although, ironically, the demonstration only reinforced the scepticism that was to dog Indigo for many years to come. In the pressroom later I overheard a not-too-far-fetched proposition that all the sheets were preprinted and shovelled out the back end. There might even have been an operator concealed inside the box. It seemed to be true smoke-and-mirrors stuff and, in the years that followed, the numerous train wrecks and car smashes that characterised the fate of early adopters seemed to vindicate the early doubts.

    But electro-ink proved to be a genuine innovation and, 10 years later, Benny Landa sold to Hewlett Packard for US$800 million. The US giant, the world’s largest computer manufacturer, had the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to fast track the R&D and make HP Indigo into the market leader it is today. Landa stayed on for a few years as a consultant, to work out the revenue targets and generally play the role of elder statesman. However, no matter how fond he may be of his brainchild, he was never comfortable playing second fiddle, even to one of the world’s largest technology corporations.

    On a subsequent occasion when our paths crossed at a HP product launch, over dinner at a restaurant in Singapore I inquired how he was filling his days. “Oh, this and that,” he dissembled, before revealing he had a laboratory in the basement of his home in Israel. He is a hands-on, brilliant research chemist; he bankrolled the development of electro-ink with 700 patents worldwide including over 170 in the US, patents used by every imaging company. Fired with a restless energy, he formed Landa Labs as a research enterprise as soon as he sold Indigo. Over the years, word had it he was engaged in energy research, far removed from digital printing.

    That proved to be true, but also startlingly false in a manner that would rock the printing industry yet again.

    From nano things…

    I arrive by taxi at the looming bunker-like research facilities of Landa Digital Printing in Rehovot, Israel, on a hot hazy day in October. The driver makes a phone call while we wait outside before Ila Bialystok, ex-HP and now Landa Group marcom executive, comes out to greet us. Like so many Landa employees she is a veteran of Indigo, infused with enthusiasm and commitment to the company and its founder. A mother of four, she puts in long days organising everything from the company’s drupa stand to a works outing in Corfu for the company’s 200 employees. She only complains that since there are no presses ready for sale she has little opportunity to practice mainstream marketing.

    Nir Zarmi, head of operations, soon joins us, a relaxed and friendly local who along with the others I’ll meet during the visit is frighteningly well-qualified. In his case, being a mechanical engineer with an MBA gives him the clout he needs to manage the R&D facility. Benny Landa, however, is not here; he’s on the road in London and New York, hitting the financial centres to raise the wind for his latest printing venture.

    Nanography stole the show at drupa. The Landa theatre was packed out for the whole 14 days, with Landa putting in a marathon effort of seven presentations a day, even to the final afternoon when eager show visitors were still queuing up as the exhibition wound down. Over 200 printers, companies and individual owners laid their money down to secure a place in the production queue for the initial Landa presses, in addition to hundreds of others who signed letters of intent. Ila Bialystok said they had only, only, 15 salespeople at the show, otherwise they would have taken many more orders. In an industry that in recent years has developed an almost pathological fear of investment, that is a phenomenal vote of confidence not only in the potential of the new technology but also in Benny Landa’s reputation.

    There are three offset press manufacturers who have licensed the technology; Komori, manroland and Heidelberg. Benny Landa has this riff about how Xerox held its technology – xerography – too close until the patents ran out. Sure they made a lot of money in the 1950s and 60s, but the big cash only started to flow when the Japanese manufacturers, Canon, Brother and Konica et al, got into the game in the 1970s. He wants to spread the joy early, encourage investment by printers because of the brand names involved. It makes sense but there is no altruism involved; Landa will be the only source of the Nanography ink.

    Over two hours, I probe to discover how far along the path the new Landa digital printing project has come. There is a new set of print samples from the ones we saw at drupa. Nir Zarmi is keen to point out the improvements in resolution, in colour, in the clarity of the images. Side-by-side, it’s easy to see how far the process has come but equally how far it has to go. The images are still not saleable print, marred by streaking and other artefacts. And they are for looking at only, not for taking away. Nanography is shrouded in secret intellectual properties.

    There are a number of clever aspects. The ink, of course, is a water-based carrier for nano-sized particles of pigment. But are the particles grown from micro beginnings or a result of being broken down from larger entities? Nir Zarmi is not saying. And apart from water, what else is in the carrier? Again, not for publication. The wafer-thin image created on a carrier belt, supposedly even thinner than offset ink, follows the contours of the paper and is much cheaper to use than conventional toners. But what is the proprietary belt made of? No one is saying. The image is laminated onto the paper. Does it contain an adhesive in the pigment? Sorry.

    There is nothing sinister here. Landa Digital Printing is a work in progress, focused on the development of what is undoubtedly the most revolutionary advance in printing since, well, since the Indigo. They are not going to hand out samples until they are of saleable quality. Landa is big on protecting the intellectual property; he lodged 50 patents before drupa to secure the process. “We must keep some secrets from our competitors,” says Zarmi. “Yes, it’s [Nanography] difficult, but if it was easy everyone would do it.”

    Bridging the profitability gap

    Benny Landa is supremely confident that his Nanography will transform printing. He bases this on the comparative cost of his process to conventional toner, on the one hand, and offset ink for small runs on the other. He has a cute diagram illustrating what he terms the profitability gap, that amount of printing above, say, 1,000 copies and below 5,000. Above is too expensive for conventional digital printing, below too expensive for offset.

    Well, it’s a theory, one that I know many competitors, including HP Indigo and Heidelberg, would challenge.

    Nanography is supposedly water-based, no solvents or aromatic oils, nothing to be extracted from the work environment, nothing to be burned off. There are undoubtedly other ingredients in the carrier but we must take Nir Zarmi’s word for it that Nanographic ink contains mostly water which is evaporated when it lands on the carrier belt. I suspect this is what is giving them difficulty in getting the image quality up to scratch. Oils are easier to control but, as Benny Landa maintains, future technologies must be environmentally neutral. Water-based printing is a good green story, one the industry will undoubtedly pay for.

    According to Zarmi and Bialystok, the company is on track to deliver workable presses by 2013. There are currently seven presses in existence, the same cohort that was on display at drupa. There are six different types; three commercial sheetfed presses of different sizes (S5, S7, S10 – this latter a B1-size press), two Landa label and flexible packaging web presses (W5, W10), and the Landa W50 for publishing, a fast web press rated at 200 metres a minute. It’s an ambitious line-up, no doubt about it, but there is no indication as to which machine will be the first to market. “We have not decided yet,” says Bialystok.

    After poring over the comparative printouts and reaching the limits of what can be revealed, which is not much more than we got at drupa, it’s time to take a walk around the factory floor. The presses with their iPad-like wall-sized touch control panels are still as impressive in their future orientation as ever. This is the way all presses will be controlled. Is Benny Landa the Steve Jobs of the printing industry? No one else thought of it, simple really once you see it.

    On the factory floor, technicians and scientists are working on the print outs, battling the streaking and generally crummy output. I keep reminding myself that they are trying to do almost the impossible; print on any type of untreated paper and off-the-shelf plastic wraps and label stock with water-based nano-particle ink, faster than any previous digital engine. It’s a big ask.

    I find it hard to share the confidence of the Landa people that all the problems will be solved within 12 months. But then, I’m not one of the 200 who have put their money down as an expression of faith in the technology and in Benny Landa. He delivered once; surely he can do so again because, if he does, nothing will ever be the same in the printing industry.

    Energy out of thin air

    It’s a 15-minute ride across town from Landa Digital Printing to Landa Labs in downtown Rehovot. For the printing fraternity, it may seem strange that the whole Nanography venture is actually a spin-off from Benny Landa’s main game, using nano science to generate energy. He has always been a big vision guy and the work going on at Landa Labs is nothing if not ambitious.

    In the air-conditioned rooms on the sixth floor of a modern building, the expertise on tap is impressive. Of the 120 individuals beavering away at esoteric research into solid-state energy generation, most are PhDs in physics and chemistry. It’s the type of workforce you could not put together anywhere in the world for the price other than in Israel. People want to work at Landa Digital Printing because of the cachet of Benny’s reputation and the groundbreaking research that is its raison d’être.

    Koby Waldman is in charge, enjoying the title of corporate vice president, operations. A mild-mannered scientist, he was the first guy on board when Landa established the laboratory in the basement of his home 10 years ago. Now he is running one of the world’s leading energy research companies that operates around the clock; the works canteen is open 24 hours a day serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as midnight snacks for those burning the midnight oil.

    So what are they doing?

    Landa Labs is exploring ways to convert ambient heat into energy using the particular properties of nano-particles. The research enterprise is focused on developing nano-materials to discover which ones give the best reactions ­ hence the spin-off into Nanography. Nano particle ink was an early discovery but Landa Labs is still after bigger fish – or should that be smaller ones?

    Walking by the rows of laboratories populated by serious young men and women, Waldman is keen to show me his latest prize, a million-dollar Olympic Magellan Atomic Force microscope, one of three powerful microscopes in the facility that examine materials down to atomic levels. He explains the process in the most general terms as one of ‘sandwiching’ pieces of exotic material, separated by micro spaces, filling the space with nano particles and measuring the result. The theory is that the heat generated by electron movements can be extracted as a form of energy.

    I will not pretend to understand the finer points but the goal of alternative energy utilising the heat in the world around us is the kind of grand vision we’ve become accustomed to associate with Benny Landa. So far he has funded the research of both Landa Labs and Landa Digital Printing from his own pocket, supposedly to the tune of $40 million per year. Waldman says he expects some commercial energy applications within the next two years, but it’s no wonder that Landa is on the road looking for a reported $200 million investment.

    Everyone in Rehovot knows Benny Landa, everyone in Israel really. Certainly in the printing industry he remains our only ‘star’. If his visions of both energy generation and Nanography come to fruition, all our lives will be changed.

    No wonder we listen when the Prophet of Rehovot speaks.

  • 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 – A tale of two drupas

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…” Andy McCourt feels that Charles Dickens´ opening words from A Tale of Two Cities might well apply to drupa 2012.

    Greetings from Dusseldorf, Germany where I am attending two trade shows. Two? Well they are both called drupa and co-located, in fact it is drupa but there are two distinct themes running through the 17 fairground halls; a dichotomy of ideas, culture and approach to our industry. Analogue and digital? No, not quite. Old technology and new technology? No. Electronic and paper-based communications? Not even that – if archaeologists unearth a tablet computer in 1,000 years time, it won’t work and will remain a mystery of Rosetta Stone proportions. “We believe that early 21st century humans used this item in religious ceremonies where the high priests ate sacred Apples and were in constant conflict with a rival deity named Mike Rosoft.” If they unearth a book, they will simply open it and read it.

    My call on the “two drupas” is that one is ‘push’ manufacturing-driven and the other is ‘pull’ service-driven. Naturally, this ‘push-pull’ division pits digital methodologies against analogue and trade craft skills against IT savvy but it is not absolute. It is, however, something that exhibits an observable force on where the crowds are flocking, and flocking they are.

    I walk around the print-manufacturing aisles and, while some have respectable numbers of visitors, I see many where stand staff are talking amongst themselves and looking up and down the aisles hoping for a customer visit. I walk onto Xerox, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Screen, Canon, Xeikon, MGI, HP, Heidelberg, Epson, EFI, Mimamki Memjet OEMs and Landa –especially Landa and I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with enthused delegates from all over the world eager to paw and ogle the equipment.

    Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that manufacturing-centric print and finishing is dying, far from it. Ryobi, for example, have attracted huge crowds to working demonstrations of a single-unit B1 press! It’s a 1050-1 with a UV casting and holographic foiling for security and decorative packaging work. If a sparkling holographic perfume carton adds 25 cents to the cost of a product that sells for $50 – who cares?

     

    WHICH TALE TO FOLLOW?

    The tale of two drupas is about your printing business model and how you see your future – craft based manufacturing bidding for large print runs together with many other printers, with reducing profit margins as the runs get longer; or a service-based business model where print runs can be ‘diced and sliced,’ produced on-demand, versioned and personalized, use fewer staff, have lower capex, respond to market ‘pull’ and the value that is added is your most excellent service and being able to say ‘yes’ to almost every customer request.

    Take a look at the photo of a Landa S10 press here. Yes, I’m writing about Landa again and why not? The more the Snooper discovers, the more fascinating it becomes. This press is a B1 8-colour perfector capable of 13,000 sheets per hour and yet it looks like something out of Doctor Who! Like the Tardis, you get a lot, lot more inside than the physical dimensions would suggest. It’s digital of course but it is also a ‘green’ press using no plates, water-based inks, totally recyclable and de-inkable output and a footprint on-third of a comparable offset 8 colour perfector.

    It’s not operated from the feed or delivery end, it is operated from a ‘side-on’ giant touch-screen. The story behind this is fascinating in itself. During the R&D, Landa involved school-age children in a project something like “if you could design your own operating interface for a nice big colour printing machine to print your own books – what would it look like?” The result was the sublime giant touch-screen that you see in the picture. In true Generation Y fashion, the smart kids came up with an Xbox/iPad solution. Forget trade school to learn this kind of printing – just read the manual.

    With a claimed break-even crossover to offset at around 8,000 B1 sheets, the Landa S10 commercial and its packaging single-sided incarnation, is a short-to medium run dream machine when it becomes available in 2013. This is not a print-manufacturing machine, it is a print service providing facilitator. It is likely that the Heidelberg, manroland and Komori Nanography-licensed versions when they come out, will also reflect this trend.

     

    KONICA MINOLTA AND B2 SERVICE

    Konica-Minolta is also showing a prototype digital B2 press, the KM-1 using Konica’s own printheads and ink. Manager of Production Print Marketing and Inkjet, Kazuyoshi Tanaka and Australian Sales Chief David Procter admit it represents a new game for them. “We recognize that the B2 commercial market might not want the ‘click’ business model that is almost universal in the B3 digital sector, so we will be flexible in offering both a click-based pricing model and a consumables-with-service one,” said Procter. The print quality on the samples I saw were very sharp and exhibited great colour.

    With Konica-Minolta’s existing BizHub range decidedly in the ‘Service Print’ sector; the KM-1 will no doubt appeal to both PSPs wanting to upsize and commercial offset printers wanting digital production that can utilize existing finishing plant.

    Pictured: McCourt with KM’s Kazuyoshi Tanaka in front of the Km-1 prototype

    Speaking of B2 digital, I now count 12 current or future suppliers: HP Indigo, Landa, Konica-Minolta, Komori, Jadason (a Chinese manufacturer), Screen, Fujifilm, MGI, Ryobi, Miyakoshi, manroland and Heidelberg. It’ll be a market space as crowded as sheetfed offset was in the 1980s and one can expect Darwinian influences will cause some casualties; but it is a happening thing and can’t be ignored.

     

    MEMJET DRIVES SERVICE PRINTING

    Following the swift and very wise settling of the patent dispute with Silverbrook Research, Memjet has lost no time in announcing three new OEM licensees – Canon/Oce, Toshiba and today Fujixerox. Toshiba is for an office MFP but both Canon/Oce and Fujixerox are for high-output 42” wide format machines with particular appeal to the CAD/GIS market.

    Visiting Memjet’s VP Marketing Jeff Bean (pictured left) and Wide-Format President Mike Puyot (pictured right), it is obvious that Memjet companies (Wide Format, Labels and Office, they decided to pull out of a Photo market specific strategy), will embark on a licensing spree where Memjet printheads, chips and ink crop up in zillions of printing and marking products made by third parties. Signing up Fujixerox is indeed a jewel of a deal since FX is so strong in the engineering drawing and production graphics sector. Bean and Puyot are pictured proudly holding one of the Memjet ‘Waterfall’ Mems-engineered printheads.

    All of Memjet’s OEMs offer service-centric incarnations of the technology – short run high speed documents (e.g. Delphax); fast convenient office printers (e.g. Lomond) and very fast wide format machines (e.g. Xante).

     

    DIE CUTTING GOES DIGITAL

    Even finishing is going service-based. One of the great press conferences I attended was for Highcon, an Israeli company started in 2009 to digitalise die-cutting and creasing. Highcon’s Euclid technology is currently in Beta – they even had the Beta customer addressing the media – and machines will begin shipping in late 2012. Euclid uses lasers to die cut folding cartons and a clever UV-cured polymer-like material that is squirted into the creasing cylinder and hardened with UV energy.

    Euclid is a natural companion to B2 digital presses and again brings service-related packaging print into the equation for small runs, test marketing, versioned packs, serial numbering and so forth. It costs around $1,600 to set up a die knife and cutting press for a folding carton print run and takes days. Euclid claims it can do the same for $375 in 15 minutes. Imagine the demand for that!

    So what is best? Manufacturing print or Service print? Well, I don’t subscribe to a ‘best/second best’ simplification. If you are happy manufacturing print in long runs and competing fiercely on price; why not? But for growth and better profitability I am in no doubt that Service-based printing and an administrative back office to support it is the way to go.

    Pictured: That’s not a drupa snooper… this is a drupa snooper

    It’s your future and your choice but whichever direction or combination you choose – which tale of the two drupas you believe – don’t be like Dickens’ Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities and lose your head!

    Another drupa Snooper next week at the end of the show and more news-as-it comes from our Publisher Patrick Howard who has worked twice as hard.

    Everything is before us.