Pioneers of Printing: Benny Landa, “The Father of Commercial Digital Printing”

Benny Landa, “the father of commercial digital printing”, a true drupa fan and owner of more than 800 patents should not be missing from our series “Pioneers of Printing”. So it is time to finally introduce to you the revolutionary man who made it possible to print directly from a computer.

This edition of “Pioneers of Printing” revolves around a true printing legend. Benny Landa, born in 1946 in Poland, is a co-founder of Imtec and the founder of Indigo Digital Press (later acquired by HP in 2002) and The Landa Group. But that’s not all: It’s him we have to thank for an important milestone in the printing industry as he unveiled the world’s first digital colour printing press in 1993. 9 years later he found his new company Landa and invented a nanography printing machine which allows for printing an image with a thickness of only 500 nanometers.

A Young Inventor and Passionist

Born in Poland in 1946, Benny Landa emigrated with his family from Europe to Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). His father developed a unique camera that would capture the image directly onto photographic paper without the need for a film. This important approach was later introduced by Landa as an essential element in digital printing. By assisting his father at a young age, Landa developed his first invention soon after: a mixer for photographic chemicals using rubber tubing and an electric motor from an old phonograph.

Benny Landa not only absolved an eclectic university education including physics and engineering at Israel’s Technion, such as psychology and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem but also graduated from the London Film School.

Landa’s Groundbreaking Invention

Together with his colleague he founded Imtec in 1971, later named as Europe’s largest micrographics company. By this time, Benny Landa invented the company’s core imaging technology and developed a method of high-speed imaging. This method would later lead to his groundbreaking invention of ElectroInk.

„The idea originated as far back as the 1970s to create a photocopying ink instead of powder, which would allow the machine to operate at a higher speed. After several years we achieved a breakthrough with an ink that could copy pages at a speed of 100-150 sheets per minute, 10 times the speed of other copiers on the market at that time,”

explained Landa.

The ElectroInk concept was commercialised by his company Indigo Digital Printing, founded in 1977.

Landa’s process used small colour particles and an electric charge to form a thin, smooth, plastic layer on paper that enabled Indigo a high-speed production of high-quality colour images. Indigo became a printing equipment manufacturing company competing with other well-known companies.

Responsible for a major turning point in the printing industry in 1993, Landa unveiled the Indigo E-Print 1000, the world’s first digital offset colour printing press. His innovations enabled printers to print directly from the computer to paper for the first time without having to create a printing plate first. This eliminated over a dozen costly and time-consuming steps. With Landa’s invention, Indigo became the market leader of digital printing and grew into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Nanography – Smaller than Small

After Indigo was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Company (now: HP Inc.) in 2002, Landa devoted himself to a new project and founded The Landa Group.

Landa and his team experimented with the unusual properties of nanoparticles and spawned “Nanography”, a new category of digital printing, which they unveiled at drupa 2012. Nanography enables high-speed digital printing on any kind of paper or plastic and in large format as the technology uses pigments of water-based nano inks which are so small that they are measured in nanometers (equivalent to 0.0000001 cm). Therefore nano-graphic ink dries immediately on paper so that no heat is necessary. This groundbreak invention/approach enabled printers to manage short-to-medium run lengths cost-effectively. With the benefit of nanotechnology, he successfully tried to convert the heat of the environment during printing into electricity and thus aimed contribute to save the planet

But that is not all that is behind the person Benny Landa: He not only is an inventor and visionary, he is also a philanthropist, establishing the Landa Fund for Equal Opportunity Through Education. The Fund enables Israeli youth of “privileged minds and underprivileged means” to achieve higher education. With more than 50 million dollars the fund has invested at all six of Israel’s universities.

Benny Landa & drupa: A Perfect Match

Thanks to this commitment to both industry and education, we are all the more honoured that drupa is the only trade show that Landa Digital Printing has ever participated in.

“We haven’t shown our products at any other trade show and the reason is that with hundreds of thousands of visitors, it is the place to communicate our message, to share our vision, to educate our market about what’s possible – about how we see the future of this industry,”

Landa recently declared in a Q&A session for Landa Lounge on the Landa Digital Printing YouTube channel.

Hats off, Benny Landa! He is definitely a legend in the printing industry and we can’t wait until drupa 2021. Which pioneer do you think we should take a closer look at next?

Header picture © Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann