The Story Behind the ‘Father of Digital Printing’
It’s more than 20 years since Benny Landa was credited with a digital printing revolution, but the 68-year-old entrepreneur doesn’t want to stop there. The man who affectionately known as the ‘father of digital printing’ has his eyes set on a second revolution, with the nanographic technology of his firm Landa. Once you understand the story of this serial inventor you wouldn’t bet against him either.
Sowing the seeds in Canada
Benny is the son of Holocaust survivors Oscar and Lottie. His family left Wroclaw in Poland when he was just two years old and moved to Edmonton, a city in Alberta, Canada.
His dad spent eight years working as a carpenter before buying a small tobacco shop, in which he fashioned his own photo booth in a back room to help boost the takings. The nifty home-built facility captured images directly onto paper, avoiding the need for film. Benny contributed by inventing a photographic chemical mixer and, in many ways, took the lessons from these days into his printing innovations.
He told Graphic Arts: “It struck me that there is something uncanny about this. If I were more of a religious person, I would believe that there was some hand guiding my destiny. I’m sure that my father’s photo machine had a major impact on me and on everything I have done ever since. In a way, the seeds of the digital commercial printing revolution were really planted in the 1950s in a tobacco shop on Edmonton’s Jasper Avenue.”
Israel and Indigo
After university, Benny moved on to CAPS, a micrographic company, before founding Imtec with a colleague. This firm became the largest micrographic company in Europe and Benny invented its core imaging technology. It was while researching liquid toners for Imtec that he worked on a high-speed image development method that sowed the seeds for his invention of ElectroInk.
In 1974 he moved to Israel and, three years later, founded Indigo and took ElectroInk out to the market. Further innovations followed but it was in 1993 that Benny’s revolution took the printing world by storm.
At the IPEX show in Birmingham he unveiled the Indigo E-Print 1000. It was the world’s first digital offset color printing press and it certainly turned heads.
He told Digital Printer: “What a thrill it was to have throngs of visitors looking on in disbelief at a printing machine that could spew out offset-like prints, each one different from the other. This was such a new and foreign concept that many insisted that we show them the input stack so they could verify that we hadn’t pre-printed the sheets! Now that’s what you live for.”
HP and a new venture
That marked the moment when printing embraced digital technology and firmly established the reputation of Benny and Indigo.
Hewlett Packard began investing in the company in 2000 and eventually bought the business in a $800 million deal. That merely fuelled Benny’s desire to make the next innovation. He set up Landa with the bold aim of ‘saving the planet’ by harnessing the power of nanotechnology.
By the time the 2012 Drupa Conference took place, Benny was able to set tongues wagging once again, presenting a type of printing technology called Nanography.
Nanography aims to bridge the gap between digital vs. offset printing press delivering the speed, cost effectiveness and quality of both combined – a real ‘best of both worlds’ solution that has already attracted $1 billion of orders. The second revolution, it seems, is already underway.
What makes Benny tick?
What drives Benny on is the ability to innovate and achieve new things.
He told the BBC: “The most important thing that motivates people is not money, it’s recognition. It’s being able to look back and say, ‘I have had a big impact’.”
The desire for satisfaction and a legacy might be a trait he spots in others, but it certainly applies to him too. Benny and his wife Patsy have established not only Landa but the Landa Fund for Equal Opportunity through Education as well, aiming to help young Israelis follow Benny’s footsteps and – thanks to a $50 million investment – it has done just that.
In and out of business, Benny Landa has made waves – and he’s far from finished yet.