Nanography and the Future of Print – How the Past Trends Have Developed into a Bright Outlook

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The publishing industry has come a long way since a man named Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press in the 1400s. Even since the computer boom of the 1990s, between software and hardware advancements, printers have been able to expand what and how much they print. While the advancement has been tremendous, the best in quality has yet to come.

If you have picked up a newspaper lately, chances are you may have noticed that the paper feels different. Have you noticed that you’re no longer getting smudges on your fingers from the black ink. Gone are the days when you would have to wash up after the Sunday Press because it left traces behind your hands. You can thank the advances in technology and printing for that – namely when the old Letterpress process (which required a lot of time to actually create letterpress plates) was replaced with the Offset printing (which used a different printing technique that helped in resolving the ink-smudge issues). The modern colour management is the main reason why the glossy pages of your favourite magazines are producing high quality images full of colour and sharp detail.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

In the mid-1980’s, both Apple and Hewlett-Packard were working on the first laser printers in development.
Laser printers, use the dry ink toner cartridge that is bonded through heat to the surface of the paper. Though Apple struggled with their products, Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet model with an output of 300 dpi was available for the steep price tag of $3,600. Several years passed, and as more and more people were starting to have home computers, the product was continually improving, the price tag went down, and prompted more people to bring a laser printer into their homes.

In 1993, a man named Benny Landa, founder of Indigo, first time showed his digital press Indigo E-Print 1000 at the IPEX trade show (the development took over 10 years from the 80s) and this got the industry thinking but it was not until HP made a $100m investment in Indigo (in 2000) that major process changes started to happen (although it should be said that even today, only about 3% of the word’s printed pages are printed digitally). In the range of the next 8-15 years, other companies (Xeikon, Xerox, Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Screen) followed suit, releasing their own colour printers. Since then, new and updated versions of laser printers and inkjet printers are available for a much more reasonable price tag in nearly any big box or electronics store you may visit.

The next digital printing revolution started at the Drupa 2012 trade fair – the first time that a new digital printing process called Nanography was introduced by Benny Landa. It continued recently at the international printing exhibition, Drupa 2016, where the latest advancement in printing technology related to Nanography was unveiled.

FACTS AND BENEFITS

Nanography

Nanography is an inkjet process that uses a very special ink which is deposited onto the moving belt and transferred to the substrate. It is fast in sheetfed but not the fastest with the web presses (it must be said that there are already 300 m/min inkjet web presses (ink direct-to-substrate, not onto a belt), although we could argue about the high quality colour). In comparison the Landa’s W10 speed is 200 m/min but its quality is definitely the highest at present. That probably relates to the fact that Nanography is capable of producing even more colour’s within the CMYK spectrum and has the ability to print on a variety of paper types and plastics.

Another benefit of Nanography is the low energy consumption and zero emissions. The way the nanography works, is water-based ink drops are ejected onto a heated conveyor blanket. Each CMYK ejector leaves its own colour droplets in a precise location, which eventually blend to create the final image. As the water evaporates from the droplets, it flattens to the conveyor, leaving the thinnest polymeric layer, clocking in at 500 nanometres; the thinnest of any digital printer. Just as with the current digital printing process, the ink never penetrates the paper. Instead, it rests on top of the surface, resulting in a much more sharp and vividly coloured image.

The biggest difference between current digital printing and nanography is in the ink itself. Nanography uses Nanoink, which is shipped as a viscous liquid to which water is added in-press after being deionised and filtered through the process. The water evaporates once it is bonded with the warmed conveyor blanket, leaving that thin layer. Because nanoparticles reflect light differently this allows the Nanography process to use less ink to create a bright and attractive final product.

FUTURE PROSPECTS

Using less energy, less ink and having no need for the traditional printing plates used by many of the larger web-type presses, a Nanography printer is setup to be more cost efficient. Which, in the future outlook of printed materials, is going to be an important factor. The online trend of newspapers, books and magazines may not have impacted the printing industry too bad yet, but if the trend continues, price of technology and equipment may come to be a determining factor for how a printer produces his materials. When in turn impacts the price which they have to charge their clients.

Though its outlook is bright and very promising, the Nanography printer is still in its infancy. Some companies have placed their orders, but right now it’s not quite ready for public release (it is believed that the main reason why is still not commercialised is because Benny does not want to repeat the Indigo mistake of releasing too soon – and he wants to make sure it is “100% bullet-proof”) . Apparently the first shipments of the B1 presses are due in 2nd quarter of 2017. However, after this year’s Drupa exhibition, it seems clear that the angle of personalisation and on-demand printing will be a big part of the industry’s future.

Marketing and advertising authorities have been watching how social media can help them target their audience in a quicker, and in a more efficient manner. By keeping an eye on trends through platforms like Twitter and Facebook, a direct mail campaign can be created and mass produced quickly enough for their customers to receive the direct mail piece faster than ever before. Of course, this is only possible due to a great graphic designer and fast printing process.

It is an exciting time for those who work in the industry with all these advancements and improvements happening. Since the early days of print, laser and inkjet printers have certainly changed the landscape of the published media. Now, with the possibility of implementing Nanography, the digital printing process can be even further streamlined and efficient, while maintaining the vibrancy, detail and precise colour matching to meet the customer’s needs. All this while reducing costs for the printing houses and the clients that frequent them