Benny Landa was the toast of the last Drupa with the announcement of his nanographic printing process complete with eye-catching printers on the stand. Since then he’s been uncharacteristically quiet and the actual launch date has slipped further back, so that we’re now looking at the next Drupa, much as we predicted when we first covered Nanography back in 2012.
Benny Landa himself says there are two main reasons for the delay, noting that the initial models needed some modifications once customers had a chance to see them and provide feedback. This includes adding things like inline coating to satisfy the needs of folding carton converters and redesigning the machines to allow for better access for servicing and repairs.
Landa has also had to develop a new, more inclusive control panel. When the presses were first unveiled at drupa 2012 they featured large side panels made up of eye-catching touch screen panels but early users quickly found that the side of the machine wasn’t the best place to work from.
So instead Landa has worked with press operators to develop a new wraparound cockpit located at a 45-degree angle to the delivery end of the press. It still has the touchscreen display, but it now puts operators within easy reach of all press controls and output trays. It means that the operator can keep an eye on the delivery and see that the press is running while also inspecting the print output, monitoring press functions and managing the job list.
The other issue, of course, has been improving the print quality and removing the artifacts that were clearly noticeable on the early samples.
Gerry Mulvaney, Landa’s European sales representative, says that most of the image quality issues have been ironed out and that the prints now have “almost come to the full litho quality.” Landa has already announced that it will use an AVT control system to monitor and adjust the press output and Mulvaney says that once this is implemented it will sort out the remaining image quality issues. This system will be able to map around blocked nozzles. But it will also be able to verify that the right content has been printed, which is an important consideration for some markets such as pharmaceutical.
But a recent flurry of activity suggests that Landa is gearing up for the first beta installations, which would mark a major milestone.
Thus Landa has started to set up a sales and service organization. Thus Marc Schillemans has been appointed European vice president of sales. He was formerly president of Scitex Vision with his most recent role being European vice president of sales and market development for HP Indigo and HP’s inkjet web business. But he’s also worked with Agfa, Esko, Xeikon and Xerox.
At the same time, Landa has also promoted Kobi Ulmer from Director of Worldwide Sales to vice president of field operations, where he will be responsible for overall operational and logistical implementation of Landa’s market strategy.
Landa will start with the S10 model, a single-sided, sheet-fed B1 printer that will be aimed at the packaging and point of sale markets. Thus it will be able to take folding carton, as well as rigid foamcore display boards. A version of this has been running at Landa’s factory in Rehovot, Israel, for the last couple of months and the first beta unit likely to be installed with an Israeli printer in the month or two.
There are two further presses being built at the Rehovot factory, which are also due to be sent out to beta sites by the middle of this year. Landa is lining up further beta sites in Europe and the US. Commercial availability for this model is likely to be early 2016, though this obviously depends on how the beta test program runs.
Landa is also planning to start beta testing double-sided presses later in 2015 for the commercial print market. The next stage will be the web fed presses, which should be able to print to plastics including flexible film substrates such as OPP and BOPP.
It’s still impossible to draw any conclusions on the Landa machines since the technology is completely new. But within the next couple of months we should start to see live print samples and to be able to judge how the images stack up against other print processes. But if the quality is as good as Landa claims, and comes in at a reasonable cost, then these presses could really be a game changer. In theory, they should be able to handle run lengths of around 10,000 cost effectively, which would redefine the crossover point between digital and litho printing.