By Editor Morten B. Reitoft
Back at drupa, I was blown away when I saw the Landa press. It looked like something from the future with an amazing glass cockpit - never seen before like this. It promised quality and a speed that were almost unbelievable. I wanted to believe! 2012 was before INKISH was founded, and I wasn't aware of either the Indigo story or who Benny Landa was, so I looked at the machines and the promises. Today I can only say that I was equally drawn into the almost religious chasm surrounding Nanography as so many others.
I was excited!
Today - more than ten years after the first presentation, Landa has more than difficulties delivering machines living up to its promises. If it were any other brand or machine hyped as much as the Landa presses and not delivering after so many years, these machines would most likely be entirely forgotten. Even printing presses promoted, produced, and delivered are almost forgotten shortly after termination. No one talks, for example, about the PrimeFire anymore, to mention one.
Benny Landa is charismatic, and as a person, he gains a lot of interest. Australian ProPrint wrote in 2016 that Benny Landa was the 'Steve Jobs of print,' or what about Jo Francis from Printweek, who goes as far as naming him a 'modern-day Gutenberg.' When you watch interviews with Benny Landa, he is always very polite and speaks softly, and when appraised by a star-struck interviewer, he dismisses this and lets other people be the judge.
Benny Landa sets the agenda with bold ideas. No question about that. He also puts himself in front of the camera. Although Landa as a company has attracted many very skilled people from the industry (many from HP) - a Landa company without Benny Landa is almost impossible to imagine.
When Landa claimed - in hard competition with Xeikon - to be the first company delivering industrial-scale digital color print with his Indigo, the Indigo wasn't developed overnight either. You can ask yourself whether Indigo would have been a success without HP? - I doubt it. Another beacon in the industry, Alon Bar-Shany, was the personification of Indigo for years, making Indigo an almost stronger brand than even the mighty HP itself! The Indigo had its child diseases when released - and with all respect, so had the first Xeikon presses. Both took different approaches, and where Indigo became part of the HP family, Xeikon became part of the Flint-Group family years later.
So Landa invented the Indigo, but the success was, in my mind, created by HP. Therefore it's interesting to see how many former HP people have accepted positions with Landa and how many have again left - and think about it. Is it individuals that make HP a strong brand? Of course, they help, but investing in new technology is as much or more about infrastructure. What comes first, sales or service? If you invest in technology supporting your business, you will undoubtedly need to ensure that the service works. HP most likely had its issues initially, but digital was at its inception at the time. Today, digital print is everywhere, and the starting point is higher- and more complex- regardless of how revolutionary any new machine is on the market.
When Landa Nanography was introduced, digital print was essential for many printing companies. Benny Landa hit the head of the nail by identifying one of the significant pain stakes. SPEED. If it would be possible to print in Indigo quality, with offset speed, who wouldn't like that? When Landa at drupa identified the sweet spot where Nanography would make sense, it was placed between toner-based printing and offset printing - which was not only an open playing field but also a spot where prices should be lower than toner but acceptable if higher than offset.
I totally understand why everybody was excited. The printers wanted this to happen. Already in 2012-2016, megatrends were clear - shorter print runs, personalization, and if you compare the carefully 7-color Landa-printed samples, these simply out-performed all other inkjet printers at the time. This was not only a dream for the few but a solution to many problems. NOT signing up for a Landa could be the death of your company. So hundreds of companies paid €10,000 to deliver a letter of intent to buy a Landa press. Benny Landa said in an interview with Globes that they sold for one billion dollar printing machines at one tradeshow - drupa, I assume.
Even consultants and specialists said that Landa and Nanography would take over the entire industry! They wanted to believe, and with the promises of Nanography, many of the challenges with speed, print format, media diversity, etc., would have been solved. With a future of Nanography being licensed by several vendors, this could be the holy grail of print.
Were these specialists right? No - because why should Fujifilm Samba print heads (in 2012, it was Kyocera), mounted on a Komori frame, be that 'one' technology that would change the world entirely? Even Gutenberg didn't change everything, and does any really believe that Heidelberger, Koenig & Bauer, HP, Canon, and all the others, would close their companies and leave billions of dollars in revenue to Benny Landa?
But the reporters, specialists, and consultants wanted to believe as well. The entire industry was amazed by the promises - fewer saw actual print samples and got a deeper insight into the technology!
Benny Landa is great at identifying challenges, and we all want to believe in him and his promises. He has delivered solutions before - or at least that is what most people continue to think. I have visited a few companies that chose to invest in Landa technology, and I can't help thinking about what a risk they take! The speed is not even close to the once promised 13,000 sheets per hour, and the quality is questioned. I even spoke with a person from a company owning a Landa machine questioning the quality consistency over longer print runs.
The problem here - and I am saying it again. Nobody is given a chance to test whether the rumors, the quotes, and all the unsaid are true. Landa simply won't talk to people who criticize them - and for that reason alone, I would consider not only once but twice before investing in a machine that still has to prove its worth!
In an interview with Eddy Hagen on INKISH.TV on June 11th, 2022, I asked him if he would continue 'chasing' Landa? His response was, "until they deliver a machine that works." As long as Landa won't answer questions and let independent reporters report, we have to.
Does that mean that we won't be amazed by the clairvoyance of Mr. Benny Landa and continue to follow him? No - of course, we will follow his ideas and keep writing stories about him and his unique visions for technology that will drive this industry forward. Just a shame that the company is SOOO old-school in how they communicate and market themselves. Maybe that will put the company in the grave sometime in the future? Who knows?