A First Look at Landa

Jim Hamilton
May 7, 2012

Before I left for drupa 2012, I wrote a blog about what I thought would be the top stories. Benny Landa’s nanography was at the top of the list and I can confirm now, after nearly a week here, that his new company and products are the most talked about development at the show. Last Wednesday, the day before drupa 2012 opened, Landa Corporation held its first press conference. In an amphitheater packed with trade industry journalists and market analysts, Benny Landa stood in front of two of his designs, a cut-sheet B2-format Landa S7 and a web-fed (52 centimeter/20.47 inch) Landa W50. These printers are part of a seven-product portfolio of Landa-branded products, most of which support up to eight colors. Now after months of anticipation and rumor,  the Landa strategy has been unveiled to the world.

Landa drupa 2012 signage example

The Landa portfolio (as summarized in the table below) includes four cut-sheet and three web-fed models. The largest of the cut-sheet models is B1 format; at 750 by 1,050 mm (29.5” by 41.3”) it is significantly larger than the B2 digital offerings that are on display at the show. All of the products support at least 600 by 600 dpi resolution with multi-level gray support.

Product name S5 S7 S10 (folding carton) S10 (comm. print) W5 W10 W50
Configuration Sheet Sheet Sheet Sheet Web Web Web
Simplex / duplex Duplex Duplex Simplex Duplex Simplex Simplex Duplex
Speed Up to 11,000 sph Up to 12,000 sph Up to 13,000 sph Up to 13,000 sph Up to 200 mpm Up to 200 mpm Up to 200 mpm
Colors 4 to 8 4 to 8 4 to 8 4 to 8 4 to 8 4 to 8 4
Resolution 600 by 600 or 1,200 by 600 600 by 600 or 1,200 by 600 600 by 600 or 1,200 by 600 600 by 600 or 1,200 by 600 600 by 600 or 1,200 by 600 600 by 600 or 1,200 by 600 600 by 600
Maximum paper format 370 by 520 mm
(14.6” by 20.5”)
530 by 750 mm
(20.9” by 29.5)
750 by 1,050 mm (29.5” by 41.3”) 740 by 1,050 mm
(29.1” by 41.3”)
560 mm (22”) 1,020 mm (40.1”) 560 mm (22”)
Paper thickness (microns) 70-400 (simplex)
60-350 (duplex)
70-400 (simplex)
60-350 (duplex)
200-1000 60-460 (simplex)
60-400 (duplex)
Product weight 5,600 kg
(12,320 lb.)
8,100 kg
(17,820 lb.)
18,500 kg
(40,700 lb.)
18,500 kg
(40,700 lb.)
5,600 kg
(12,320 lb.)
9,800 kg
(21,560 lb.)
6,700 kg
(14,740 lb.)

Note: sph stands for sheets per hour and mpm stands for meters per minute.

The inks are jetted onto an intermediate blanket that is heated to evaporate the water in the inks prior to transfer to the substrate. The use of the transfer blanket explains why Landa uses the term ‘ink ejectors’ rather than the more commonly used term ‘inkjet head.’ The maximum 1,200 by 600 dot per inch resolution for most models should contribute to a strong ability to reproduce detail. The devices are relatively small in footprint, yet very heavy, which speaks to the nature of their construction.

The large format of the devices is one impressive feature, but two other items also stand out:

  • The side of each device is a three-meter-long touch-screen user interface that provides system updates at a glance

Landa graphical user interface

  • The ink containers are designed to collapse as ink is consumed and are recyclable

Landa collapsible inks containers

The feed and delivery of the cut-sheet S7 are offset-like compared to the typical digital printer design that draws from multiple sources. There is also no indication of any in-line finishing capability in the delivery unit. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise since Landa’s stated intent is to provide an offset press replacement that fits the way that existing print shops work. The big differentiators that are intended to make the device attractive to commercial, packaging, and other printers is the speed (comparable to offset), low running cost, quick make-ready, small footprint, ease of operation, efficient drying, and the ability to print on a range of untreated substrates. 

The print samples on display, unfortunately, are a disappointment as they are streaked and unimpressive. Landa admits that the samples are not yet market ready and acknowledges that there is a lot of work left to be done before planned shipments begin in the second half of next year. The company showed the samples to demonstrate the broad color gamut, the level of detail, and the ability to print on paper and plastic.

The thin layer (500 nanometers) of the water-based polymer inks is a key factor. According to Landa, the inks will not disperse in the substrate, which should contribute to the technology’s ability to effectively leverage the ink’s colorants and produce a broad gamut. Water is the pigment carrier and Landa points to this as another reason for the expected low running cost. Inks will be provided to the end user in concentrated form and will be mixed at the user site with conditioned tap water.

Three partnership announcements, with Heidelberg, Komori, and manroland, were made in the days leading up to the show. These are in their very early stages. Landa notes that there will be more partnership announcements to come, including one for flexible packaging. In regard to its distribution strategy, Landa intends to sell its products under its own brand while its partners sell co-branded products. Landa notes that it will not compete with its partners. In other words, it will not sell a Landa-branded version of a product one of its partners sells. It is also possible that instead of reselling a Landa design, the partners will integrate Landa nanography onto their own platforms. Heidelberg has indicated that it plans to follow the latter strategy.

The Landa announcements have provided a lot of excitement to drupa 2012, but they also bring up many questions. It’s quite clear that this is a pre-alpha technology demonstration. Print samples were not given out. There was no discussion (beyond the wall-sized GUI) of front-end or workflow components. Landa’s partners are on board, but have few or no specifics about their plans. All signs indicate that there is a lot left to do in product development and distribution strategy. With customer and partner feedback gathered at the show, Landa will have a solid base for its next steps. The answers to many of today’s questions will become clearer in the months and years to come as print quality issues are resolved, price and running cost details are made public, and partners unveil their own plans.

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