Landa’s tech now faces its true test

By Jo Francis, Monday 25 September 2017

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There aren’t many industry bosses who would choose to stand up in front of their customers, and talk for more than an hour about their family background and formative years.

b2-landa

Attendees check out samples from LDP

But then, there aren’t many bosses like Benny Landa. His personal backstory is an extraordinary one; his parents escaped the Holocaust and he spent his infancy in a refugee camp. 

In a heartfelt speech to some 100 assembled customers and potential customers from around the globe, he explained his ardent Zionism, and the raison d’etre, the “higher purpose” that drives him and which is instilled into the Landa team. 

“The main reason I am doing this is to achieve something great, to change the world,” he said. “Truly I believe everyone in our company is driven to do something profound with our lives.”

By way of a brief backgrounder on his latest print venture (for the full story see the printweek.com archive), while Landa was exploring nano technology to realise his vision of creating thermal energy from thin air (a work in progress, but he believes it will happen) he came across nano pigments and spotted the potentially huge benefits for print. “I had no choice, I had to get back into printing,” he says. 

Thus, having reinvented printing once with the launch of the Indigo E-Print digital press in 1993, he’s now set himself another high bar with his Landa Digital Printing venture. As he explained at the firm’s VIP customer event, his next goal is to establish Israel as the world’s leading exponent of printing technology, wrestling that crown from long-established German competitors in the process. At the age of 71, his vision and ambition remain undimmed. 

With the first Nanographic press, a B1 format simplex S10 model, now installed at a customer site, Landa has confounded some of his harshest sceptics. And while the print quality has improved a great deal since Drupa, artefacts remain, because the firm’s AQM closed-loop quality control system is still a work in progress. “It was supposed to be the first system to be written, and it’s turned out to be the last,” Landa admits, explaining that the challenges involve the speed of operation and huge amounts of data for partners AVT and EFI to crunch. “Yes, we have missing nozzles and registration issues, but when we close the loop that will go away.” 

Although first beta site Graphica Bezalel is pretty relaxed about the quality (see boxout), for other customers including European beta site Edelmann, a fully-functioning AQM system is absolutely essential. 

As an interesting side note, a function of how Landa currently drives the Fujifilm Dimatix heads used in its presses means that there are always miniscule dots in the background of any non-print area. Whether this will preclude the press being used in some applications remains to be seen, with one technical expert convinced that unless Landa finds a way to have a ‘true white’ background it will limit Nanography’s potential. 

Five presses (three S10s and two S10P perfectors) are built and undergoing testing prior to being shipped to customers. Other elements of the roll-out include the all-important area of service and support. Here, Landa is combining virtual reality, augmented reality and the actual reality of field service engineers – plus a third-party logistics partnership that promises to deliver parts within three hours. 

“Following installation we will keep an engineer on site for as long as is needed,” says Kobi Ulmer, head of field operations. “Then for the next couple of years we will maintain the highest ratio of engineers to installations, with high coverage of engineers in the field.” 

As to the small matter of how customers will finance presses with a starting price of circa €3m (£2.7m), and an as-yet-unknown residual value, Landa has teamed up with Dutch international finance and leasing specialist DLL. “Finance is indeed a very important topic. We will make sure that customers will be able to get finance from global leasing companies, such as DLL, as well as local financial institutions, as they get for their other capital investment,” says Landa chief executive Yishai Amir. 

With beta customers unanimously expressing confidence, and commercial shipments scheduled for H2 2018, a press should be installed at an as-yet-unnamed UK customer around the middle of next year. After so much promise, and so much hype, now comes the true test. 


Customer reaction

Current beta customer “We have put different boards in it and it’s fine – that’s a big advantage. Jobs have already gone to customers and all the samples we are showing here are good enough [quality]. Maybe not perfect, but we’re not worried about it – this is the first machine in the world. There are many other benefits for customers.”

Eyal Harpak, co-owner, Graphica Bezalel, Israel

Future beta customer “We will end up reconfiguring one of the most efficient workflows there is because of what the machine can offer, it could be quite a revolution to the workflow in our shop. Cycle times will be dramatically reduced, and we could take two days out of the process. Two of our customers have already approached us and asked to be ‘the beta’s beta’ customer.” 

John Hans, chief executive, Imagine!, USA

Potential customer “The quality of print is not at the appropriate level for us – not yet. But if we talk about the potential it is huge. Also the Metallography technology has a lot of potential for us, we have customers who want foil on their packaging but who have metal detectors in their production lines. This would be a solution.”

Richard Šváb, head of technology and construction, Model Packaging, which has 16 plants across the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia and Poland

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