Benny Landa drives fast. I think he is in a hurry to reach the future. We had been on a whirlwind visit to the several Landa facilities in Tel Aviv, Israel and we were heading to a secret lab buried in the bowels of a non-descript industrial building.
Arrayed on a long workbench were about 20 print samples. They ranged from tissue paper to board to canvas to every substrate you could imagine. None were treated in any manner. There were two of each. One set printed with aqueous inkjet and the other with Landa Nanographic Printing. The Landa samples almost popped off the sheet. The inkjet samples were dull and the ink had permeated the sheets. The test was to show that Landa can print on almost anything it touches, with superb quality.
In fact, at other facilities I visited with him there were samples of foil and metallic printing and unbelievable colors for automobiles and colorants for hair (yes, hair).
Through it all, he kept calling his invention ink and I kept saying liquid toner. He delivers his ink with inkjet heads but it is not inkjet ink. In fact, it is much more than liquid toner. Just calling it ink may be an injustice.
What is ink? It is a substance that allows us to reproduce an image on a substrate. We evolved from letterpress ink to lithographic ink, to offset lithographic ink, and even Collotype ink. In 1916, an ink company in Philadelphia finally found the right mixture for CMYK inks and process color became a reality. Then there was gravure ink (liquid enough to fill those tiny cells) and flexographic ink that worked with anilox rollers and early rubber plates to print on cellophane. There is screen printing ink as well. Along came toner, powder or liquid, mechanical or chemical. Then inkjet with aqueous, solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and phase change inks.
The word ink also has legal ramifications. In 2005, I testified before five judges on the National Labor Relations Board. A printer in Wisconsin had a contract with the union covering lithographic and offset printing. The printer acquired a Kodak NexPress and put it a non-union facility. The union read the brochure. It said the device used “ink.” Not Dry Ink like Xerox, or ElectroInk like HP Indigo. So I volunteered my time to explain to the judges the differences between electrophotography and offset lithography. Toner, I said, was not ink in the offset litho sense. They unanimously agreed with me. The device in question used toner, not ink. The union revised their contracts. I believe in negotiation, not misinterpretation. (On a side note, the union lawyer said that I was anti-union. I noted that the year before I defied the president of my university and gave the commencement talk at the Milwaukee union school.)
So, when we say “ink” we should define what we mean. Ink is now a very broad category indeed.
Even calling it Nanographic Ink may not define it sufficiently. Other manufacturers make ink with nano particles, but Landa has something entirely unique. It is Landa Ink using nanographic particles that have characteristics and applications far beyond print, including drug delivery and energy harvesting.
At Drupa, visitors will be able to take away actual samples. The technology is now ready for prime time. This was not the case at Drupa 2012. There will also be several displays showing unique applications. Take the time to look at them. The Landa stand is so big you may need to leave crumbs to find your way out.
Benny Landa drives fast. The future, you see, is over the horizon, and he intends to get there first.