The trouble with nanotechnology is that even some moderately intelligent people like your correspondent don’t really understand it.
What we do know is that it uses some foxy subatomic finagling, which may result in the invention of new materials with undreamt of properties. One of the new materials could be ink, and the drupa show in Germany in May could see the first real-life application of nano-inks. Another pipe dream from a bunch of mad scientists, you say? Well, maybe, except that the chief madman is the same guy whose company pioneered digital printing fifteen years ago. Indigo was the company, and Benny Landa was the man behind it. When he sold out to HP in 2001 for a very, very large sum of money, he retired from the public gaze and used some of that money to research discretely into other new ideas. Now flash-forward to May 2012, when Landa Digital Nanographic Printing will be occupying 1500 square feet of booth at drupa, the every-four-years European print jamboree. Landa has recently applied for a whole host of patents, but is so far playing it close to the vest. His nano-inks promise to be more durable and more ecological, and nano-particles, so it is said, will not clog tiny nozzles. This could revolutionize the spread of inkjet, not that it really needs any extra revolutionizing at the moment. Landa has beefed up his team of 150 engineers and developers, recruiting executives from Kodak and HP. In a recent (and rare) interview, he told the “drupa News” editor: “If you ask me what is the best printing process, you probably think that I’m going to say ‘Indigo’s digital offset’ - but I’m not. Why? Because there’s nothing more ephemeral than today’s technology. Here today, obsolete tomorrow. So, if your question is what is the best printing technology on the planet today, my answer would indeed be ‘Indigo.’ But tomorrow? Let me tell you what I have repeatedly told Indigo engineers over the years: ‘Someday, somebody will invent a better printing technology than ours. That somebody had better be you!’ Let’s hope they were listening.”
The time to find out whether they were listening, and if so what they did about it, will be at 10:15 am on Thursday, May 3, in Düsseldorf, when Benny Landa in person will be ruminating publicly on what the next ten years might bring in changes for the print industry. Come early if you want a seat.
The biggest exhibitor at drupa is, as always, Heidelberg, and Heidelberg’s CEO Bernhard Schreier is also this year’s honorary president of the show. His observations throw light on trends in the industry as viewed from Europe. He quotes three key words: packaging, digital and ecology. Packaging, because this, along with labels, is about the only bright light for Europe’s printing industry. Digital for the obvious reason that, well, everybody’s doing it, and ecology because that’s the buzz word in Germany and you can’t throw a brick there these days without hitting a wind farm. Heidelberg is at pains to announce that its latest Anicolour presses are “carbon neutral, “ as also will be the whole of the group’s exhibits at drupa.
For many years Heidelberg has seemed to be in a digital dither, like the lady in the song who “Didn’t say yes, didn’t say no, didn’t say stop, didn’t say go.”
Now, says Schreier, the strategy has been redefined. Onto the backburner goes Heidelberg’s own development of digital presses, and a big hello to two families of Heidelberg presses: Linoprint C, using Ricoh technology, will cater to the commercial printing sector , while Linoprint L, aka CSAT, will be for the label and packaging sector. CSAT, as readers of L&NW
may recall, is a German company making narrow web digital inkjet presses, and acquired by Heidelberg last year. There is no news regarding the future of the “historical partnership” between Heidelberg and Konika Minolta, maker of inkjet inks and printheads
An obituary for Angelo Bartesaghi, the founder of Omet, appeared in a recent issue of L&NW. What needs to be added, as those who knew him can testify, is the simplicity and the dynamism of a man who loved machines almost as much as he loved his family and his employees. Unlike some of his countrymen, he did not let success go to his head, and despite his intense work-schedule, still found time for many social and charitable activities. One of the few things he failed to master fully was the English language, but in conversations with your correspondent he never failed to pay flattering - and quite unjustified - compliments on said correspondent’s understanding of Italian. Angelo Bartesaghi was a true Captain of Industry; his son-in-law and long-time fellow manager now heads up the company he founded, and which will hopefully for many years remain his greatest memorial.
It is now several decades since the University of Cambridge (the one in England) started encouraging scientists to step outside academia and set up industrial and research partnerships with private firms. The result has been an industrial park of several hundred enterprises which, if not quite on the scale of Silicon Valley, has nonetheless established a reputation for attracting talent and coming up with marketable ideas.
Domino was a three-man startup there in 1978, working on coding and marking systems. Today the Domino Group employs over 2,000 and had 2010-11 annual sales of £ 314 million. Most of its business is still in coding and marking systems using thermal inkjet technology. Now Domino is moving into D-O-D technology with digital color printers for labels and packaging. Its latest baby will be on show at drupa: specially aimed at the label converter, this model will, according to Domino, print up to 16,000 square feet of labels per hour, making it economical even for relatively long runs. The real innovation behind the new press, says Group Managing Director Nigel Bond, is the very small droplet size of just 6 picoliters, which gives higher quality print.
Literally just down the road from Domino’s headquarters is Xaar, maker of the inkjet printheads that find their way into many of the world’s D-O-D inkjet presses (including, unsurprisingly, those of Domino). Xaar was among the first to develop ways of making the ink circulate within each jet in order to reduce the problem of clogging within the nozzle. Today this Cambridge-based company discretely provides the printheads at the heart of many digital inkjet presses including those of EFI Jetrion and Nilpeter/Caslon.
Everyone in the European printing and converting industry recognizes the names of Guido van der Schueren and Jan Ruysschaert, though they may not be able to spell them. These two software specialists were founder and inspirational genius respectively of Artwork Systems, which for ten years dominated the European market for prepress software. In 2007, after negotiating a merger with their main competitor Esko Graphics, the two men continued in the business, holding senior positions in the merged company EskoArtwork.
In January 2011, EskoArtwork was acquired by Danaher, the multi-billion dollar, Washington DC-based corporation which also owns Videojet and Linx Printing. This year, the EskoArtwork name changed back to Esko. Whether these changes in name and ownership had any influence is not known, but Guido and Jan now carry the business cards of Hybrid Software, a Pennsylvania-based group. At a recent press conference they were at pains to point out that they will not be competing with Esko (how could anyone suggest such a thing?). They will however be spreading the good word in Europe about Hybrid’s “Order Lifecycle Management,” a kind of software to coordinate other softwares and which Hybrid says enables printers and converters “to efficiently manage orders throughout the entire production lifecycle.” In Europe, Hybrid Software will be concentrating mainly on the label, packaging and signage sectors. For the past five years or more, Europe’s label converters have had little choice when buying prepress software packages. This could be about to change.
France’s narrow web converters have not been slow to move into digital printing, and many of them attended the second annual conference on digital label printing held in Paris in March. Speakers representing the various digital technologies - inkjet, digital offset, dry toner - extolled the virtues of their presses, and substrate and ink manufacturers explained what you can and cannot do with digital. Several delegates also took part in a round table discussion to look at the wide range of products now being run on narrow web digital presses: tickets, cards, packaging and unsupported films being among the most frequent. This being France, there was a lengthy break for lunch, so that delegates could network while enjoying quantities of “ecologically correct” finger-food prepared by one of Paris’ top chefs cuisiniers.
The congress also saw the presentation of the Stork DSI digital label press. Stork Prints is a newcomer to this sector, being chiefly known in Europe for its rotary screen technology. One of the first sales of the new press was to a company in Eastern France, who said they chose it because it was “built to last” and because it offered high-quality digital white, which is still a rarity in digital presses.
The name of Adhéprint will not be familiar to readers of L&NW. Many French label converters probably do not know it either. But this small-time printer, with just ten employees, is using digital printing to dig into a little-known niche market. Public utility services from garbage trucks to ambulances need stickers and posters of all sizes. All to often they need them fast. With its two workshops, one printing wide format screen and the other narrow web digital inkjet, Adhéprint delivers the goods in record time. According to owner-manager Yannick Vivier, “We can now get label orders mid-morning and deliver mid-afternoon.” The digital press chosen by Adhéprint is from German manufacturer CSAT (now part of the Heidelberg Group – see above). What tipped the balance in favor of this press, according to Vivier, was the quality of the print heads and the weather- and UV-resistance of the finished labels.
Making stickers for garbage trucks could be said to lack sex appeal, but Adhéprint has added several strings to its bow, and possibly the most newsworthy of its customers is the “Rallye des Gazelles,” which for those who don’t know is a 16-day endurance race for women drivers, being held this year in the Sahara desert region of Morocco. Adhéprint’s stickers were apparently chosen because they withstand blistering heat, sandstorms and everything else that nature can concoct in those inhospitable regions.