When I want to find out what’s happening in the printing industry, the first person I go to is Frank Romano. Professor Emeritus at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), author of over 50 books and founder of eight publications, Frank lectures extensively and continues to be a sought-after speaker for industry audiences of every conceivable type.
Since I launched annual PBI conferences, Frank has been a leading speaker. Audiences love him and for good reason: the man knows everything about printing, publishing and typesetting. He’s as witty as he is smart. He provides perspective that helps all of us be better at what we do.
So you can imagine my thrill at booking Frank Romano as our breakfast keynoter for this year’s conference on Wednesday, October 10th. He’ll be discussing the new major digital printing presses – and how they differ. What a stupendous topic! I asked him six questions about his upcoming presentation.
1. Talk a little bit about nanographic printing technology, which was introduced at this year’s Drupa.
You have to say “Landa nanographic printing,” because that is what got the attention at Drupa. Other digital printing suppliers have nano-sized particles but not the same approach that Landa uses. Landa nanographic printing is liquid toner delivered by jetting. It uses very small particles that lay down an ink thickness thinner than offset and can print on virtually any substrate.
2. What are some of the trends in digital printing reproduction over the last year?
A year is an eon in technology development. In the last few months there were 32 announcements involving digital printing.
3. Explain some of the differences in major digital presses.
First, there is toner. Toner is based on a particle that can be imaged with electrical forces. That particle can be dry or immersed in a liquid. Thus, we have dry and liquid toner printing systems. For dry toner, the page image is formed on a special surface that converts laser light energy (photons) to electrical energy (electrons) and attracts the toner particles. This is generally ture of liquid toner, except that Lanta uses jetting to form the page image.
Second, there is inkjet. Inkjet is based on inks that are jetted directly onto a substrate. The ink can be water-based (aqueous), oil-based (solvent), UV-based, or eco-solvent. The jetting can be continuous or drop-on-demand.
Toner-based printing uses concepts very similar to offset litho. The image is created on a drum or belt where the toner particles are attracted to electrical charges created with a laser. All the toner particles are then moved to a transfer belt or unit and then transferred to the substrate using electrical forces and pressure. In effect, you have an “offset” approach. The HP Indigo uses the term “blanket.”
Liquid toner was invented in Australia in the 1950s but perfected by Benny Landa. The industry saw it in color in 1993 with the Indigo introduction. At Drupa 2012 both Océ and Xeikon introduced new liquid toner devices. Myakoshi has had one for a while. The HP Latex inks used in HP wide format printers are based on liquid toner.
The big news at Drupa was Landa nanographic printing. The Landa ink is jetted to a belt that is heated. This causes the ink to undergo a metamorphosis. It becomes a clear polymetric sheet (plastic in effect), which is then transferred to the substrate. Although it appears to be inkjet, it is actually liquid toner. The Indigo uses an oil; Landa uses water. The Landa particles are very small, and thus, less ink is required to print, which reduces ink cost.
Inkjet printing advanced with full-page or full-sheet arrays. Many wide format inkjet systems move the printing heads across the sheet. Single-pass array devices only move the substrate. Thus, many new B2 or 4-up sheetfed inkjet printers were introduced at Drupa, most oriented to heavier stocks for package printing.
Some inkjet printers deposit a spot of pre-coating liquid before they deposit the colored inks. This may allow the use of non-treated or specially coated papers (or it may not). Landa nanographic printing claims it can work with any standard offset substrate.
Almost every digital printing supplier noted that they were moving into packaging. There were over 20 digital printing systems for labels alone. New B2 (4-up) sheetfed printers emphasized folding carton capability. Landa said that their printers can print on flexible packaging materials.
Even though digital printing is promoted as a variable printing process (every page can be different), the vast majority of digital printing is static documents. Brochures, flyers, direct mail, and transactional documents are the primary digitally printed products. Most digital printers can print on label stock and newer devices are geared for folding carton stock. Flexible package printing with digital methods is on the horizon.
We can then categorize digital printing into toner and inkjet.
Then into sheet and roll devices.
Then into special substrates or standard substrates.
Then into document or packaging.
4. Are there any general rules to decide which press best suits a customer?
There are no rules for anything in printing any more. The most interesting Drupa announcements involved partnerships between Heidelberg, Komori, and manroland with Landa. Just as these companies compete in offset litho printing by promoting their press capability and workflows, so they will compete with a common digital printing process by promoting their press capability and workflows.
5. Does it really matter which press you choose?
As a print buyer, the choice of device will be based on print quality, substrate acceptability, Pantone color matching, and then all the other factors, such as price and delivery.
6. What can attendees of your session expect to learn?
Let me thank Frank Romano for contributing to today’s Print Tip as only he can. Do yourself a favor and plan on joining us this October, where you can hear Frank talk about the digital printing landscape at his PBI breakfast keynote session on Wednesday the 10th. It’s a session you don’t want to miss. Visit our Speaker & Session page for all the program details.
© 2012 Margie Dana and Frank Romano. All rights reserved. You’re free to forward this email. However, no part of this column may be reprinted without permission from the authors.