Posts Tagged ‘Nanographic Printing technology’

  • 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.