By Editor Morten B. Reitoft 

In the past weeks, I have been searching for websites, articles, films, etc., about Benny Landa, Landa, Nanography, and many other things relating to digital print - in a broad sense. And it's been fun to see how much coverage Landa has got, with still after ten+ years not being able to deliver on the promises given at drupa 2012.

In an article on www.whattheythink.com by Patrick Henry, Benny Landa is credited for inventing the term "Everything That Can Become Digital, Will Become Digital," with the extension "Except for Everything That's Better Off with Offset Litho."

If it's for the entire sentence, the credit is given, totally ok. But I couldn't help thinking about the origin of the phrase so many of us use to describe why Digital Transformation is a given. So I searched - and well, this quote is claimed by many. However, the oldest quote I could find is from MIT's Nicholas Negroponte back in the '90s.

Nicholas Negroponte is an exciting gentleman known in broader circles than I imagine Benny Landa. I have followed Negroponte for many years since he was involved in creating the San Francisco-based tech-, design, and lifestyle magazine Wired. During the years, he wrote more than sixty columns in Wired. The book "Being Digital" is seen as an essential milestone for Negroponte and the very understanding of the new economy or Business 2.0.

Negroponte has a background as an Architect and Professor Emeritus at MIT, but you can read his summary here.

I have used the phrase "anything that can be digital will be digital" many times - I love it, but it doesn't belong to Landa - and that doesn't matter as Benny Landa has invested, taken risks, and been an intelligent entrepreneur despite!

Ten years ago, Benny Landa presented Nanography and Landa-presses to the drupa 2012 audience. The promise was simply amazing, and had only Landa been able to deliver on the promises; the printing industry could have looked very different today. In interviews, Benny Landa speaks about how he sees both Landa branded machines and numerous OEM partners - he, in particular, talks about Offset vendors. In an interview with Darryl Danielli from Printweek, Benny Landa even says that Landa machines will ship about 18 months after drupa 2012.

As we all know - this didn't become a reality. Despite the promises and the now ten years in development, Landa has not been able to develop a machine that delivers on the promises from back then. Or at least that is what many speculate. Nobody talks much about the performance of the Landa machine without the information being carefully managed.

So what was the promise back then? These are just a few examples of the specs presented at drupa 2012 (good report by Detlef Schulze-Hagenest, also putting the Landa promised in perspective to other vendors at the time!):

S5 - 11,000 Sheets per hour B3 - 60 gsm-350 gsm
S7 - 12,000 Sheets per hour B2 - 60 gsm-350 gsm
S10 - 13,000 Sheets per hour B1 - 60 gsm-400 gsm

"All available after Autumn 2013" - which it, of course, still is :-)

The base idea with the Landa presses is to print with tiny (nano) pigments printed on a heated blanket and from the blanket transferred to the substrate. Similarly to what has made HP Indigo a great success - though without heated blankets (as far as I know). The idea is excellent, but making it perfect seems a challenge.

I can't tell what the challenges are, but it must be tricky when something takes ten years and is still not 100% up to specs. THAT I have respect for, but what I find more and more difficult to respect is the very, very strange communication.

Are the machines in the market delivering according to specs? Or are they not? Why is it IMPOSSIBLE to find much-unbiased information about performance, quality, reliability, consistency, and all the things promised now TEN years ago? When a consultant like Eddy Hagen tests the quality and even challenges an acclaimed print record, Landa's response is total silence.

Looking at Landa from a market perspective, I can't help thinking about how much the market has changed in the past ten years. At drupa 2012, customers could, for a fee, undersign a Letter of Intent for the purchase of the machine. I remember how strange that was and how much it was discussed - I even remember from 2016 - that only customers with a well-bolstered balance sheet could TALK to Landa - it may be just a rumor, but I heard from numerous friends in the industry.

I can't believe many are still on that waiting list, and I am sure anyone interested in talking to Landa will get access, but I don't know!

What is more interesting is that the competition compared to drupa 2012, 2016, and even 2020 is considerably different. When I visited HP Indigo last year, HP still had a strong belief in the electro-ink platform even when it comes to speed, quality, format, pretty much everything - so will any buy-out Landa as HP did with Indigo?

I can't see who that should be, and I can't see why any should? I have not looked into details, but I believe Landa has had a few investment rounds and that the company's paper value is on par with Heidelberger Druckmaschinen. You can, of course, always discuss where the future is? And like TESLA for years had an overrated share price, maybe Landa will prove everybody wrong? Maybe Nanography will be the technology and business model that will lead print into the next paradigm? Maybe it's just about being patient and waiting for technology that will be the giant leap for printers?

When researching this article, I have read many articles from colleagues in the industry and seen numerous videos from open houses worldwide. What surprises me is the lack of criticism! Criticism is NOT bad. Criticism brings innovation forward and ensures that customers investing in Nanography know what they buy, so the investment is aligned with expectations. That is damn good!

I don't know Eddy Hagen personally, so I can't tell whether he has a hidden agenda; therefore, I have decided to meet with him for an interview when possible. I have - not for this article - reached out to Landa and offered them an interview. I had only ONE condition: I was allowed to ask ANY questions, and they should promise to address these. I have also offered Landa to make an INKISH film (for travel cost) from Hudson Printing in Salt Lake City, which recently invested in their second Landa. Unfortunately, they rejected the offer without any explanation!

We would like to understand the challenges, the solutions, and the situation for the companies that have invested. Some companies have returned their machines, and some don't use them. For them - I won't mention their names. Others are satisfied with their machines - so why not tell ALL the stories?

And yes - Bernd Zipper is 100% right in a LinkedIn post I had with him - it's sometimes too easy judging from a distance, but ten years of development?

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Eddy Hagen

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Thanks Morten! And you can be sure: I have no hidden agenda. My agenda has always been to help printing companies, by emphasizing/promoting what works, and challenging what doesn't work, what doesn't deliver (yet)... That's all...

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