Day Two – Friday
Nano-technology… the words on everyone’s lips…
The “Landa Nanoprinting” performance was the starter for today. And boy, oh boy… no expense was spared anywhere. Every attendee received a black (admittedly vinyl) portmanteau (fancy word for “bag”) with printed product material inside (not printed on a Landa press, though). We were entertained by exotic dancers, aboriginal music, smoke machines blowing rings 5m into the air, and vibrant flasing lights until the man himself, god-like, appeared out of the darkness, to explain what all the hype was about.
I must admit that the case for nanotechnology was appealing – environmentally friendly water-based “ink”; vibrant colour gamut; crisp edges with no bleed like inkjet or spatter like toner; no soaking into the substrate; and more. The image is built up on a transfer belt and the nano-particles actually dry before being applied to the substrate – hence no curl or cockling – and hence the ability to run at extremely high speeds – up to 13,000 sheets per hour (well and truly comparable to current offset presses).
And the model by which Landa is licensing the technology means that when it is perfected, nano-printing could well become the standard that ousts offset print processes. Benny is clever – he hasn’t licensed the manufacturing process for making nano-inks. If and when every large press manufacturer has built a nano-press, their users will be forced to buy their nano-inks only from Landa!
On top of this, Landa Corporation has already released prototypes of 6 machines, designed by themselves from the ground up. Perhaps the most appealing features of these presses are the high-tech user interfaces built around them – a 3m interactive colour display screen on the front panel is just the start of the 21st century look and feel.
However, there had to be a sour note somewhere in all of this. Benny freely admits that they have a long way to go in regards to quality of the printed output. Banding, patchiness and consistency all need to be addressed. But he is up-front about these short-comings and utterly confident that he and his R&D team will have the problems licked within 18 months.
Read more at the Landa website: http://www.landanano.com
The rest of my day (even if it did seem a let-down after the wow of actually seeing the Landa-god) was filled with informative and interesting stops…
Elpical has a new SaaS model for their Claro image optimisation software that we have used regularly. “Organic Imaging” allows the same contextual optimisation of images as their more expensive stand-alone software for a subscription of less than 10¢ per image – a real boon for small volume users.
EFI has released their “Fiery Dashboard” which allows a business owner to collect data from all digital devices that are run through Fiery RIPs and to present key information such as uptime/downtime, usage rates, jam frequencies, error codes, etc. and present this all in an easy to understand, graphical interface. Better understanding of machine performance can be t our fingertips on a daily basis.
I finally caught up with Richard Watson, President of Taopix and I had a comprehensive demo of the software we have been investigating for the last three months. I believe it will do everything we expect, and more. There is enormous potential to create our own markets for good-quality digitally-printed products for both B2B and B2C markets.
And then there was Xeikon, again… or was there?
I bumped into Ewan, a technician I knew from my from Agfa Chromapress days, and with whom I had had a great deal of contact when we owned our Xerox DC-100 (a re-badged Xeikon-based digital press). Now working for Xeikon in Australia, he was kind enough to show me through the current Xeikon range and to “prepare” me for the demonstration of the new Xeikon production technology.
Well, the new “Trillium” technology, to be built into the Xeikon Quantum press, was announced with great fanfare and flag-waving… but with absolutely no explanation at all and nothing more than a glimpse from behind glass screens of a vaguely Xeikon-looking machine with a roll of paper running through it. No printed sheets coming out, no printed sheets to be examined, no description of the process, no reasons for the fanfare, no indication of when it might be released – indeed nothing whatsoever that might hint at its appeal or purpose. What a fizzer! Over coffee, afterwards, Ewan admitted that he was as much in the dark about “Trillium” technology as anyone else (and he works for the company). Other than that it used a “water-based” toner with good environmental credentials, he could offer no more information than the leggy brunette who announced the “demonstration”.
In amazement, I packed my bag with a few samples (including the entire American Declaration of Independence printed on the back of a Xeikon salesman’s business card, in 1pt type) and took a hike to Halls 4 and 5 (about 15 minutes away).
In Hall 5, I made a beeline towards the huge HP stand (even bigger than Xerox’s, and I am told, much bigger than Heidelberg’s), but was distracted as I passed the MGI stand.
MGI has taken the best of Konica Minolta print engines and re-engineered the paper delivery and fusing units for greater reliability and accuracy – and produced something that looked like a Sherman tank, which could print on virtually any substrate. In the past 8 years, MGI have released 12 new models of digital presses as well as an inkjet UV varnishing machine – all of which still look like Sherman tanks – but all of which are characterised by incredible reliability and versatility. Their top-of-the-range machine is based on the KM c7000 print engine (70ppm) but has offset-press-like paper feed and transfer and a fully re-designed fuser unit. They also offer an in-line UV coater, as well as other finishing units.
At US$250k (which is now pretty much AU$250k) it may be worth further investigation – if and when a new Australian distributor is appointed.
Finally at the HP stand, I stopped to pick up a copy of a perfect-bound book called “Web2Print” which was being used to demonstrate the printing and in-line binding capabilities of HP and Horizon equipment.
And then I realized that the last two days had taken their toll on my legs and my body in general. There was no way I could last another 6hrs, to attend the Australian/NZ printers drinks in Düsseldorf or stay awake long enough to meet and chat with these colleagues. I gave my apologies and headed back to our hotel.
On the way, in the train, I opened the book I had picked up on the HP stand – “Web2Print”. It is amazing how serendipity works… this small paperback contained the most astute analysis of the dilemma that Colours currently faces in regard to B2B and B2C marketing opportunities. I will try to get a few more copies to hand out when I get back to Australia.