Benny Landa - Exclusive Interview
What is the state of development of nano printing right now?
We have developed a system called Active Quality Management (AQM) that scans every single pixel of every single image.
Landa print heads have hundreds of thousands of nozzles, and it’s not possible for every single nozzle to fire – known as missing nozzles. Everyone in the industry is facing this issue and you have to have a solution. While you can’t compensate for missing nozzles, you can measure them. We measure the output and this will close the loop on missing nozzles. At drupa, none of our Nanographic Printing presses were running the AQM system. They were are all running what we call open loop, because at that time, we hadn’t been able to close the loop in time for the show.
When judging our print samples at Drupa, you need to keep in mind that they were printed ‘open loop’ without AQM. This is one of the reasons why we aren’t yet shipping presses.
Ok, so let’s say a customer runs the press in two or three shifts. What would be your best practice advice for them - when or how often would they need to clean the press, blanket or nozzles?
The nozzles are capped automatically. They are cleaned automatically by the machine and so is the blanket. The operator doesn’t have to clean the press at all.
At Drupa, all of our presses were cleaned on a regular basis for appearance purposes only - there is no daily cleaning required of our presses for normal routine operations. Primarily, operators were removing finger prints on our touch screens, so that press demos could be viewed by visitors to our booth from multiple angles.
Are your nano inks FDA compliant?
Yes, they are FDA compliant. The handling of Nanopigments is no different from any flexo inks used in food packaging that are FDA compliant for indirect food contact.
When will Landa ship its first presses?
They will be going in early 2017. We will be starting with sheet fed presses. The web fed presses come a bit later.
Is a primer needed to print plastic substrates?
Sometimes, it depends on the material.
Who is producing the ink?
We do. It’s a very special ink and we manufacture it ourselves.
Do you think that there will be an open market for the ink later?
No, I don’t think so.
Do you expect that because there is only one ink manufacturer, this will be a concern for some printers?
You know, that’s what people told me exactly 25 years ago when we unveiled the first Indigo press. They said that nobody would accept one single supplier, or a click charge or pay per use model. Today, almost 98% of all Indigo customers are click charge customers. As such, I don’t think there will be an aftermarket requirement for inks - customers today prefer this structure as they know exactly what their costs are and can better quote for jobs. We also take total responsibility for the quality, reliability and the durability of our presses, so there are many advantages to the customer with this model. And it’s a fact that it works.
Are spot colours available or do you use an extended colour gamut?
Our extended colour gamut covers over 96% of the Pantone range with a Delta E of 2. So far, there has been no demand for spot colours beyond our existing 7 colours. Except for white of course. And if there is demand for a specific spot colour, we will produce it. But it’s usually up to the brand owners to dictate this, and it seems that they are starting to favor a fixed colour pallet. So, thank goodness, we can finally get rid of spot colours. We are currently developing metallic inks too.
What about laminating or sealing?
Some of the samples we were showing at drupa were heat sealed, and of course as you know, flexible packing has a huge range of materials - we are in the process of validating Nanography with all these materials. It is heat sealable with all the materials we’ve been doing tests with, which is mostly PE and PP.
What is the thinnest substrate you can run on Nanographic Printing presses?
We have done runs with 10 micron film, and we expect to be able to print onto 6 micron substrates too. But it is too soon to promise that.
The crucial thing about our process is that all the images are transferred in one shot and therefore the substrate plays no role in registration.
At Drupa 2012, many printers signed a letter of intent with Landa. Rumor has it that many of them tried to withdraw from this agreement?
Actually, only a very small number of people withdrew their letters of intent. Some did, mainly because they needed a machine immediately and we couldn’t supply that. Following a decision not to focus on the smaller format B2 Landa presses in the short term, we wrote to customers that had signed for those presses and offered to give them their deposits back. Most of those customers either upgraded to a B1 press, or said that we should keep the deposit because they wanted to keep their place in line for when we bring out a B2 format press in the future.
Do you think that we will see a nano and flexo hybrid press?
I don’t think so. When technologies go from analogue to digital, most go through a hybrid phase. But once you achieve the kind of performance we’re already seeing from our presses, we don’t see any benefit in hybrid solutions.
Having said that, we offer coating units. You can either print with UV coating or water based coating, but clearly that will one day be upgradeable or supplemented by all-digital coating because in the end it’s all digital.
This is not only about printing, the entire workflow will be digital. When you have a robot that loads the raw material on one end and a robot that unloads the finished goods from the other - it will be entirely digital. So even though today, most of the world does mechanical dye cutting, one day it will all be digital. So, I don’t see the point in investing in hybrid technologies as an alternative or intermediate step.
Right now, Highcon has a system that die cuts or scores about 6000 sheets per hour, this is about half the speed of our presses. I have no doubt that the next generation will be matched to the speed of our presses and that you will see totally automated, full inline digital printing and die cutting or scoring.