Nanographic printing technology – a new beginning for digital?
Demand for digital printing continues to grow, and technology manufacturers are turning their eyes increasingly towards the burgeoning market for package printing. NarrowWebTech editor Nick Coombes spoke exclusively with Gilad Tzori, Vice President of Product Strategy at Landa Digital Printing, about the latest developments in nanographic printing technology.
This interview was first published in NarrowWebTech printed issue 4-2014.
For those unfamiliar with nanographic printing, please summarise the technology and explain how it works.
Gilad Tzori: The nanographic printing process is based on Landa NanoInk, a water-based ink with nano-pigments that measure tens of nanometres in diameter. The process starts with the ejection of billions of ink droplets onto a heated conveyor blanket. Each row of ink ejectors adds a different colorant (CMYK or CMYKOVG).
As the water evaporates, the droplets flatten and blend to create an ultra-thin, dry polymeric film. The 500 nm thick colour image, the thinnest of any printing process, is then transferred from the blanket onto the substrate, forming an abrasion resistant, laminated layer that matches the gloss of the paper and produces exceptionally round dots with super sharp edges and high gloss fidelity to the substrate.
Unlike inks in other printing processes, the Landa NanoInk droplets used in the nanographic printing process do not penetrate beneath the substrate surface. As a result, they create an extremely sharp and vivid colour image on paper, plastics or packaging films. With no pre-treatment or post drying requirements, the printed output can be immediately processed right off the press.
What are the advantages of nano printing over the existing toner and inkjet based technologies?
Gilad Tzori: The nanographic printing process has a number of fundamental advantages over existing printing technologies. First, is the use of nano-pigments, which are excellent light absorbers that enables a colour gamut that is 15% wider than alternative technologies. Second, the brilliant colours provided by the use of nano-pigments enables Nanography to create images that are 2-10 times thinner than other processes, and use significantly less expensive pigments. Third, the ink is dried and formed before it is transferred to the substrate, enabling Nanography to print on any off-the-shelf substrate, and with very high ink coverage without causing cockling or other issues. Finally, another advantage of the dry transfer is that sharpness and colour accuracy is practically unaffected by the substrate.
One of the criticisms of existing digital technology is usage cost, because consumables are expensive – how does nano printing respond to this?
Gilad Tzori: The nanographic printing process offers the capacity to yield the lowest cost-per-page of all the digital printing technologies as a result of combining Landa NanoInk, Nanography process, and the productivity of our nanographic printing presses. Landa NanoInk images absorb light more efficiently than conventional images and are laminated onto the substrate without penetrating it. That enables such images to be only about 500nm thick. Thinner images use less material to produce – which means lower cost. The Nanography process uses water, but unlike water based inkjet, it does not require expensive special papers or special coatings. Unlike other digital processes such as Electrophotography, it prints on any ordinary paper without priming or pre-treatment.
The Landa S10 Nanographic printing presses are up to five times more productive than other digital presses since they print large format, B1 sheets (1050 mm/41”) at 6500 sheets/hour while other digital presses use B2 sheets (736 mm/29”) or smaller, and print at a much slower speed.
Where are you in the development timescale?
Gilad Tzori: The development of our technology and products is progressing rapidly and we now have beta presses in our labs at different stages of assembly, integration and testing. The final internal testing – system and alpha – are about to start and our beta programme is planned to start around the middle of next year.
Are you working in partnership with other manufacturers to develop the technology – if so, who are they, and what elements are they contributing?
Gilad Tzori: Landa’s strategy has been to focus on our area of expertise – Nanography – and to cooperate with the best providers in the areas outside of our expertise to achieve the optimal solution. This is the case with Komori, EFI and AVT.
There are two facets to our strategic partnership with Komori. First, this company is a Landa licensee and will produce its own brand of Nanographic printing presses. Second, Komori is the supplier for the advanced sheetfed paper transport system used in our S10 Nanographic Printing Presses. We are working with EFI to develop the Landa DFE, a new, high performance digital front end powered by EFI Fiery DFE technology. It will have specific functionality for sheet fed and web fed Landa Nanographic printing presses in all printing segments. These include commercial, folding carton, point-of-sale, publishing, and flexible packaging. The DFE will drive 4-8 colour printing with our Nanographic printing presses and enable press operators to perform last minute job changes on the press, as well proof jobs, and rush print jobs on-the-fly. In addition, the DFE will collect production feedback from the Nanographic printing presses and support closed loop colour control and inspection.
The S10 presses, our first commercial presses, will include an AVT inspection solution as an integral part of the press. This solution will inspect, measure and report nozzle condition, colour uniformity, registration, scaling, skew, random defects like spots, stains, and streaks, as well as data integrity, enhancing print quality and increasing press productivity.
Have you secured beta sites for early production models?
Gilad Tzori: We are working closely with a number of beta site candidates who have shown interest and have a good fit for beta testing our press.
Assuming testing goes well, when do you expect to have the first commercial presses available for delivery?
Gilad Tzori: We expect that the first commercial presses will be shipped in early 2016. Exact timing will also take into account our customers’ needs and site preparation.
Which particular sectors of the package printing market are you targeting?
Gilad Tzori: The single sided S10 nanographic printing press is the industry’s first B1 digital press. As such, we will initially target the packaging, POP/POS and direct mail segments. A double sided version of the press will be released about six months afterwards, and it will be targeted at the commercial and publishing segments.
Do you see Nanographic printing as complementary to, or competitive with other printing processes?
Gilad Tzori: There is no doubt in my mind that nanographic printing, also known as Nanography, will take print volume from existing printing processes such as offset, but offset and other printing technologies will remain with us for many years.
Will you market and sell your presses direct, or via third parties?
Gilad Tzori: We will sell through direct and indirect channels. Since the total experience of our customers is extremely important for us, we will have continuous direct contact with all press owners, and they will receive the same high level of service and support, whether they purchased their presses directly or indirectly from Landa.
What are your anticipated targets for market share going forward?
Gilad Tzori: We appreciate that the penetration of new technology into mature and conservative industries, like printing, takes time, and our approach reflects this reality. Rather than focus on rapid growth, we are looking to gradually penetrate the market.
Do you believe that all existing digital processes will survive?
Gilad Tzori: I strongly believe there is room for many printing technologies, and each one has its own sweet spot. This is similar to engine technology, where internal combustion, electrical, and jet engines co-exist while each application uses the technology that best fits its requirements.