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I confess that as a technology geek I’m often quite excited about watching new technologies develop. But as a professional sceptic journalist I feel a certain amount of disquiet about the Landa presentations at this year’s Drupa and have spent part of the summer puzzling how best to cover this.

Drupa 2016 and visitors to the Landa stand gaze up in awe...
Drupa 2016 and visitors to the Landa stand gaze up in awe at…

The samples on the Landa stand were about what you would expect from a print technology that is still a year or two away from commercial delivery – that is to say that there were several artefacts visible though the colour gamut appears quite good. Komori is developing its own Landa press and the samples that Komori showed seemed to me to be poorer than Landa’s own. Naturally, Landa is still not giving out samples and there’s a limit to what you can see through glass.

As for the presses themselves, some of the claims do not seem to me to stack up. Landa says that the W10P, which is a twin-engined B1 webfed press, will be 24 times faster than other inkjet presses. But its speed is 200mpm. The Kodak Prosper presses have done this for several years and can reach 300mpm, albeit at a lower print quality. Equally, HP’s T series run at 244mpm and the latest T490 can do 305mpm.

...Benny Landa, seen here on a large screen showing the presentation from the theatre behind the Landa stand.
…Benny Landa, seen here on a large screen showing the presentation from the theatre behind the Landa stand.

Then again, Landa is now using Fujifilm Samba printheads so I think it’s unlikely that the Nanography presses will be significantly faster at a given resolution than other presses that are also using these heads. But it all comes down to the inks and the way they interact with the various substrates. It’s also worth remembering that other vendors, such as Kodak, use nano-sized pigment particles in their inks.

But what really worries me about Landa is the whole sales pitch. Heidelberg held its press conference and all its presentations at the show on its stand next to its presses. But Landa had a bizarre show with lights and digital projectors and girls dancing in spandex in a theatre away from the presses. My gut feeling is that if Landa was really ready to start building and shipping a lot of heavy metal presses than he would have gone about his presentation differently.

The Landa W10, a B1 web-fed inkjet press.
The Landa W10, a B1 web-fed inkjet press.

As it is there are further delays, with the presses not due to ship for another year or two – which is at least three years behind the original schedule. I think it will be 2018 before the betas are done and probably closer to 2020 before we see these machines in any great numbers. Moreover I have the distinct impression that Landa is still hoping that someone else, other than just Komori, will license the technology and save him the bother of having to set up a new factory and go through all the tedious shipping and servicing that goes with selling presses these days.

And yet I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing these presses running in production, and I don’t doubt that this will happen. The technology seems genuinely interesting and has undoubtedly spurred other developers efforts. But I suspect that once all the marketing shenanigans have been stripped away the final shipping presses won’t seem quite as revolutionary as when they first shown back in 2012, if only because those other inkjet press developers are catching up.


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