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Benny Does Vegas

Inventor Benny Landa always has liked being in the center of a good show, ever since he rolled out the first Indigo digital press amid scoffing print industry observers at GRAPH EXPO 20 years ago this autumn. Two springs ago, his nanographic printing process was all the buzz at the quadrennial drupa 2012 trade fair in Dusseldorf. Landa and EFI CEO Guy Gecht did not disappoint yesterday afternoon as the EFI Connect Users Group conference kicked off at The Wynn in Las Vegas. On stage, the dynamic duo revealed that EFI will develop a digital front end (DFE), based on its Fiery technology, for the new Landa solution.

Most of whatever happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but not this news. The strategic alliance is no longer a secret, although it did catch almost everyone by surprise, delighting Gecht and Landa, of course. The news went viral online, generating nearly 1 million tweets (including retweets) yesterday on Twitter, reports EFI’s corporate marketing VP Frank Tueckmantel.

Nano, nano

In development for nearly a dozen years -- and seemingly smoke and mirrors since its announcement 20 months ago -- Landa’s microscopic NanoInk technology is about to become reality. The water-based colorants that comprise ultra small pigment particles only tens of nanometers in size soon will be placed in beta-testing mode, by Q4, according to Gilad Tzori, VP for product strategy at Landa Digital Printing, who was kind enough to call me from Israel earlier this afternoon. “We are on track for our first customer installation by the end of this year,” he confirmed.

Echoing his boss’s statements from Tuesday, Tzori went on to explain why such a robust DFE as Fiery is needed. “We anticipate that our [printing] machines will be fed a lot of data for static and variable-data applications, which require information changes at a high frequency,” he said. “We need to be able to process and stream that data at very high speeds.” How fast? Approximately 1 gigapixel per second, he noted. (A gigapixel image is a digital image bitmap composed of 1 billion picture elements: That’s 1,000 times the information captured by a 1 megapixel digital camera, according to a Wikipedia definition.) Fiery GM Toby Weiss told a gathering of journalists and analysts earlier today that EFI plans on “re-architecting Fiery a little bit.” Tzori also sounded excited about Landa leveraging EFI’s expertise in print quality enhancement and color management.

This tech partnership allows EFI to play in a bigger print market, literally, meaning larger, B2 sheet sizes, which measure 19.69 inches by 27.83 inches. So, it sounds like a win-win-win, for both companies and for their print service provider customers as well. The width of a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers. For a print firm’s bottom line, this means less ink cost: Nanographic images measure only 500 nanometers in thickness — about half the thickness of offset images — which enables NanoInk to produce the lowest cost-per-page digital images in the industry, say the Landa folks.

Oh, and there’s one other interesting aspect: In addition to being microscopically small, nanographic print reproduction technology is different in another big way. Unlike inkjet, there is no need to heat the paper -- only the ink, which is jetted onto an intermediate blanket. The blanket is heated to evaporate water prior to substrate transfer.