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Visionary, prolific inventor and holder of 800 patents worldwide, Benny Landa changed the course of the printing industry at IPEX in 1993, when he unveiled the E-Print 1000, the world's first digital color printing press. He came to be known as the father of digital printing. Now, twenty years later, Benny, through his new company – Landa, is about to revolutionize the industry again using an entirely new technology – Nanography®, that brings digital printing to mainstream production.
An Early Passion for Innovation
Benny was born in Poland in 1946 to Holocaust survivors. When he was two years old, his family emigrated from Europe to Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). After eight years as a carpenter, Benny’s father bought a small tobacco shop. To help make ends meet, he built a photo booth, serving as studio and dark room at the back of the shop. Mr. Landa Sr. devised a unique camera from bicycle parts and pulleys that would capture the image directly onto photographic paper, avoiding the need for film. This important concept would later take hold as an essential element of digital printing, later introduced by Benny in 1993. In these early days, Benny assisted his father in the darkroom and developed his first invention: a mixer for photographic chemicals using rubber tubing and an electric motor from an old phonograph.
After an eclectic university education that included physics and engineering at Israel’s Technion, and psychology and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Benny graduated from the London Film School. In 1969 he began his professional career at CAPS, a micrographics research company and was instrumental in developing an innovative micrographic product that won the company a major contract with Rolls-Royce Aero Engine Division – and soon saw him appointed head of R&D.
In 1971, he and a colleague founded Imtec, a company that would later became Europe's largest micrographics company. Benny invented the company’s core imaging technology, and while researching liquid toners, worked on a method of high-speed image development that would later lead to his groundbreaking invention of ElectroInk®.
The First Digital Printing Revolution
In 1974, Benny followed his long-time dream and moved to Israel. Three years later, he founded Indigo, which commercialized the ElectroInk concept. Building on his previous discoveries in black and white imaging, his new process used small color particles and an electric charge to form a thin, smooth, plastic layer on paper. With quality that nearly rivaled offset printing, Indigo enabled high-speed production of high-quality color images. By the beginning of the 1990s, Indigo had become a printing equipment manufacturing company and offered the industry a revolutionary new method of printing that brought it into direct competition with industry giants such as Xerox, Kodak and Heidelberg.
At IPEX in 1993, Benny unveiled the Indigo E-Print 1000, the world's first digital offset color printing press. This was a major turning point in the printing industry as the E-Print bypassed the printing plate setup process, eliminating over a dozen costly and time-consuming steps. It combined digital prepress with color offset printing, and enabled printing directly from a computer file. The technology enabled short-run printing and on-demand turnaround, and it shook the industry to its foundations. With Benny’s invention, print would enter the digital era. Indigo became the market leader of digital printing grew into a multi-billion dollar industry in less than 20 years.
Nanography® – The Second Digital Printing Revolution
In 2002, Indigo was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Company and Landa immersed himself in a new project—to save the planet using nanotechnology—and established the Landa Group. He sought to capture environmental heat from the air around us and convert it to useful electricity. He wanted to create something like photoelectric cells but use heat instead of light—in other words, electricity out of thin air.
While working with nanoparticles, Benny and his team of PhDs observed that many materials exhibit unusual properties at the nano-level. And with printing in his DNA, Benny began to experiment how pigments would react. That work spawned a new category of digital printing – Nanography® – unveiled at drupa 2012. The new technology and process enables high-speed digital printing on large formats and on any kind of untreated paper or plastic. This was a revolution for digital printing that would take it beyond photobooks, business cards and short-runs of brochures.
It was digital printing for mainstream, bridging the critical profitability gap between offset and digital printing and allowing printers to cost-effectively produce short-to-medium run lengths.
A Desire to Help Others
In addition to being an inventor and visionary, Benny Landa is also a philanthropist. In 2002, together with his wife Patsy, he established the Landa Fund for Equal Opportunity Through Education. The aim of the Fund is to enable bright Israeli youth of “privileged minds and underprivileged means” to achieve higher education. The Landa Fund enables young new immigrants and Israeli Arabs to acquire university degrees. The Fund has invested more than $50 million at all six of Israel’s universities. Thousands of Israeli youth have earned university degrees as a result. The Landa Fund also supports non-profit organizations in the fields of education and the advancement of shared citizenship, tolerance and understanding between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.