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'LANDA-MONIUM'! What's Behind Benny Landa's Big drupa Buzz?

Jul 15, 2012 12:00 AM

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At drupa, Landa Corp.'s booth was literally overflowing with people. The Israeli-based Mayumana dance troupe was a huge draw-their high-energy performance has drawn favorable comparisons to "STOMP." The huge, iPad-like GUIs on the new presses were attracted a lot of attention. And then of course there was Landa himself. Benny, ever the marketing maven, worked the crowd with the ease of a politician.

Benny Landa sold Indigo to HP in 2002 and has spent the past nine years in R&D with his new company, Landa Labs. Just before drupa, Landa Corp. announced it would unveil a family of sheetfed and web presses. The press release alluded to "B3, B2 and B1 sheetfed perfecting presses which operate at up to 11,000 sheets per hour for commercial and packaging printing as well as web presses for publishing and flexible packaging that range in width from 52 cm to 104 cm and operate at up to 200 meters per minute."
At the show, we saw the Landa S7 (B2 format) as well as the Landa W50, a 20.47-inch web press. We also learned Komori, Heidelberg and manroland sheetfed had signed strategic partnerships with Landa. (Note that Komori supplies the transport for Landa's sheetfed press as well as Konica Minolta's KM-1 B2 inkjet press.)

Landa's water-based ink ("NanoInk") is comprised of pigment particles only tens of nanometers in size. (A single nanometer is one million times smaller than a millimeter.) Billions of microdroplets of ink are "ejected" onto a heated blanket. As the droplets spread, the water evaporates, leaving a dry polymeric film reportedly capable of "tenaciously bonding" to virtually any paper, plastic or film substrate. The technology reportedly eliminates the need to pre-treat stocks as well as any post-print curing or drying steps.

"Many materials dramatically change their properties when you make them as nanomaterials - metals, for example, dramatically drop in their melting temperature, and all sorts of optical properties appear," Landa told PrintWeek. "Organic materials also change their properties and become much more efficient absorbers of light, so you need a lot less pigment if it's a nano pigment. And almost as important, nano pigments only absorb light, they don't scatter it, so you get pure colors."

Printed images are 500 nanometers thick-half that of offset images according to the company-resulting in "the lowest cost-per-page digital images in the industry."

Currently Landa's presses use modified piezo heads from Kyocera; Landa indicated modified thermal heads also could be used. The company hopes to achieve 500,000 impressions life for the blanket. Landa intends to produce inks at plants in the Far East, North America, Israel and possibly Europe. (Currently there's a pilot plant in Israel.)

Print samples weren't distributed-Landa acknowledged the quality isn't ready for prime time. These presses also lack RIPs. Seeing the machines in their current state is like seeing a tadpole and envisioning the frog. You can grasp the general concept but a few details are sketchy, including pricing.

Landa indicated it would be 18 months before the first products come to market-some industry observers say two years is a more realistic estimate. Nonetheless, many attendees signed Letters of Intent (LOIs)-which when combined with their deposits gives them the right to essentially have an early place in line to buy a press.

While it is probably commonplace for exhibitors to accept deposits, I can't ever recall any vendor or manufacturer discussing them-Benny Landa brought another acronym into widespread use-he must be LOL at the unprecedented attention the LOIs are generating.

Landa's goal isn't to compete with or replace offset printing-it's to sell ink. He's positioning his digital printing technology as a mainstream tool to let commercial printers tackle short and midrange runs for existing customers, which he termed the "huge gap" of jobs ranging from runs of one up to "many thousands of sheets."

Partnerships won't be restricted to printing or packaging players. "As we know, all digital technology grew out of the office space," Landa said. "[These technologies] progressively were able to develop higher functionality. We're starting at the other end and expect to see Landa Nanographic Printing going all the way down to the enterprise, the office and maybe even the home."

“I am left with the impression of printing as a sexy industry,” mused Display World’s Gerry Mulvaney. “ It certainly wasn’t before drupa, but while I can understand people having their pictures taken standing next to the latest Ferrari or movie star, I couldn’t quite get over seeing so many people wanting to have their photograph taken standing next to one of the Landa Nanographic printing presses. Every day, people were queuing up to have their pictures taken in front of the Landa presses. Surely printing cannot be that sexy or perhaps it is?”

Who else could pull this off? One of my more senior colleagues suggested we’d have to go back to the 1980s, when Efi Arazi, founder of Scitex and EFI, was in his heyday. Landa brought an almost palpable energy to the show.

Landa deserves full marks for the marketing clinic he put on. The technology is fascinating and innovative. Other vendors can be equally proud of the cutting-edge machinery and processes they unveiled. But at drupa 2012 Landa was the MPV: Most Passionate Vendor.

Following the sale of Indigo to HP in 2002, Landa signed a 10-year non-compete clause. His announced his interest in creating a technology that converts heat in the air into electricity. Landa recently told PrintWeek that work led to his Nano Ink idea. "Years ago, at Landa Labs, we needed to develop super small particles for our energy work," Landa said. "Nobody had a way of doing that so we had to develop our own method for producing these tiny nano particles. We had a breakthrough in making them, and I guess, because I've spent my whole life in printing, the moment I saw it I thought 'Hey, maybe this will work for pigments too.' That's when suddenly the bell went off and the light bulb lit, and we realized we had the answer for print."

Among the familiar faces in the Landa booth was Robin Walton. Walton, now retired, had helped tell the Indigo story on stage at past drupas and looked forward to his new assignment.

"We started, as we had done at drupa 2000 and 2004 with sold out shows," he said. "Five shows a day, 300+ per show, should be enough right? Wrong! We were sold out for days in advance. Benny worked with the brilliant AV staff to broadcast our show out of the theater and into the booth, allowing another 500 to 800 to see the show standing up all over the booth."

The Landa team put on 69 shows for the general public. "In total, I estimate between 28,000 and 32,000 people saw the show, said Walton. "It was, as Benny loves to create, pandemonium! Or as it should now be called….Landamonium!"

The complete "Nano. Bigger than you think." is now online on YouTube.