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Digital print then vs. now

Feb 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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Floral-patterned toilet paper won't be going digital anytime soon. But just about everything else is fair game, says Benny Landa, founder of Indigo. “Since the mid-1980s, when we started the development of the Indigo digital printing press, I have believed that all printing will become digital,” he says.

Christopher Morgan, senior vice president of HP's Graphics Solutions global business unit says digital color printing is just starting to take off. “If you look at the total print market, the percentage of digital pages is still tiny compared to analog pages across virtually all application areas.”

Beyond pages migrating from analog to digital, Morgan cites “high-quality color applications and high-value personalized content” as key opportunties. HP also sees significant growth coming from opportunities that didn't exist in the conventional print world.

Back in the day

Digital printing was born in 1978 with the introduction of the IBM 3800 and Xerox 9700. In 1993, Indigo and Xeikon gave us digital color presses. How has digital print changed? Well, according to Landa:

  • Awareness: Today, [most] print customers know that they can leverage digital printing to make their businesses more creative, competitive and responsive. They're not only aware of digital printing, they need it.
  • Application explosion: Digital photo albums and labels and mail promos have now become the norm.
  • Industry acceptance: A visitor to Drupa in 1995 could count on one hand the digital printing stands: Indigo, Xeikon and few others. By Drupa 2000, Xerox and Kodak had joined the fray, but still, digital print had not yet become mainstream. Today's industry trade shows are digital printing shows.
  • New technology: Ten years ago, electrophotography was the only viable digital printing technology. (Inkjet existed, but only in slow, wide format machines.) Electrophotography's quality, speed and cost has continued to improve. And inkjet has demonstrated impressive capabilities including breathtaking speed.

Are nanopigments the next big thing?

Since selling Indigo to HP in 2002, Landa has stayed busy with philanthropic and technological endeavors. He continues to serve as a strategic advisor to HP's CEO. Landa Labs has been his main focus for the past nine years. “It's like a second Indigo, which also started out as a technology R&D company,” Landa explains. “The main difference is that, this time, I don't have 33 years to get the job done! Indigo invested 16 years in R&D before unveiling its first products: At Landa Labs, we expect to do it in under 12.”

Landa hints that his latest activities “are about the amazing things you can do with nano-pigments. Everything that can become digital will become digital — hair color is no exception! Don't be surprised to one day find that nanopigments have changed the name of the game in digital printing. That's it, no more hints!”

Beyond cost per page

“More companies that need work produced are looking beyond just cost-per-page and evaluating the total cost. Digital can transform value chains, removing the waste of unused print or the complexity of sorting.

“Many print service providers and their clients — from marketing agencies and brand owners to book publishers and other content creators — are discovering new business models and opportunities that simply didn't exist before, such as self-publishing, personalized direct mail campaigns integrating online and printed materials, custom signage or wall coverings, and others we haven't imagined yet.”

“As more content turns digital, that opens more opportunities for digital print. As the largest technology company, we have direct insight into how consumer printing, mobility and e-devices are evolving and converging.“

This interview continues on Have a trend you'd like to see revisited? E-mail