There was one reason why I definitely wanted to attend drupa 2020: to finally get my hands on samples of Landa Nano. As you know, the show was canceled, and it seemed I had to wait a long time for a new chance. But then something interesting happened: someone put a video on LinkedIn, bragging about his newest machine and offered to make prints for everyone who wanted samples. I ordered mine, I’m not impressed.
When Landa Nano launched at drupa 2012, I was probably one of the few people who saw what it actually was: a fundraising show. There was nothing but an idea, mock-ups of machines, and a few terrible samples. But the hype started. Everyone wanted a piece of the action, over 400 people signed a letter of intent and paid a deposit.
BTW: the most important innovation that drupa was the ‘on the fly’ plate changes on sheetfed offset presses, making (very) short runs viable on this kind of presses. And an innovation that was available almost immediately.
When I talked to a VP R&D of another digital press manufacturer at drupa 2012, he said: “Nano ink something new? Every inkjet ink is on a nanoscale, otherwise your nozzles will get clogged or damaged.”
A few months later, when I was giving training to some R&D people of yet another digital press manufacturer, someone confined me that they had tried working with a rubber blanket to offset inkjet printed images. But they stopped that project: too many hurdles to get it right in a reasonable amount of time. The next drupa they had their digital press ready, it sold like hot buns, I’m told, with high uptime, high productivity level as main advantages. And this year, they have launched the next generation, which seems to attract a lot of interest.
At drupa 2016, not being a VIP, I had to settle with the framed examples, in a barely lit corner of the booth, behind a rope. Still, from that distance and with a minimal amount of light, I could see it had serious registration issues. A year later, at Interpack 2017, I did see a small sample of Landa Nano, at the Edelmann booth, a disappointment. (more on the history of Landa)
Early October 2020, I saw a video on LinkedIn. The company was bragging about its newest machine: a Landa Nano S10P. In the video, it was compared to a Komori offset press and an HP Indigo digital press. An ‘independent jury’, consisting of one person, declared all the samples looked great. And then – le moment suprème – there was the offer to print samples, for everyone who would like them. I immediately sent them a mail.
A small note for those who speak Dutch: De Grafische Vakpers was at that same event, but not part of the jury, and could take home some test sheets. Their evaluation is here.
The test file I included was the same file I sent to the different printers in this article: a few pages from my ‘corona photobook’. I included the same info: it is an RGB PDF/X, with XCMYK as output intent and the link to more information on that profile. But if they could do better than XCMYK: please feel free to do so! And that’s what they said: we are going to use our own, dedicated profile. And I asked to print it on uncoated paper, the same paper type as the book.
When I got the sample, it wasn’t on uncoated paper, but machine coated. When asked, the answer was: “I’m sorry, we don’t have uncoated paper in stock.” Which is weird: this is a large printer, with over 200 people, multiple printing presses, and delivery times that are very short. I have a very hard time believing they don’t have uncoated paper in stock. Which leads me to this conclusion: either the Landa Nano press needs special paper (at least for uncoated stock), which wasn’t in stock, or it can’t handle uncoated stock at all. So be aware to check this if you are interested in such a press!
The sender also asked how I liked the prints. I gave an honest answer: “I’m not impressed” and pointed to several flaws, in my opinion. Which triggered some excuses: we are still in a testing phase, we used the wrong settings to print your file. Yeah, right. If you offer to print samples for (potential) customers or even whoever, especially when it is on what you consider your most valuable machine, you check every step. To make sure that what is sent to the (potential) customer is the best you can do.
The print quality
So let’s get into the print quality. Several images below will contain comparisons with the samples I got from the Xerox Iridesse and an HP Indigo 7900 (see this article).
The first thing that was immediately visible was the color conversion. The dark, deep blue was close to purple. Now, I have to agree: these images are very challenging, with most standard ICC profiles, the conversion doesn’t go well. But with a machine that is touted to be the next revolution, and a big one step forward, especially when it comes to color, I had expected something better.
Also, other colors looked slightly different, compared to the Iridesse sample, compared to my photo book.
Second: there is either banding or failing nozzles in the B&W images. Again, the B&W image I used, isn’t an easy one, but they should get this straight. Otherwise, Landa customers will run into trouble on a regular basis when printing B&W images.
When I took out my loupe, something weird revealed: the solid tints are not solid tints. The 100% cyan, magenta, and yellow also show dots from other colors! Why is that? Are they using very different pigments and need these ‘adjustments’ to get to the right Lab-values? I’m curious…
(you can click on all the images below to see them in a larger size, all close ups were taken with the same magnification factor, some include a ruler)
And adding extra colors to a solid comes with a risk: depending on the amount of other colors, it might look ‘dirty’. The yellow e.g. seems a bit greenish to me. As I described in this article, it is often better to have a sligthly larger dE when compared to the perfect color, but keep your printed colors clean, than having a slightly smaller dE and have a ‘dirty’ color.
Also interesting: the text. The original Adobe InDesign document has text only in 100% K and 75% K. I can’t remember where it went wrong, but in the PDF, that K became CMYK (in the final photo book, it’s only K). In the case of the slightly lighter text, the RIP converted the composite black into only K. But in the case of the 100%, it stayed composite black. As a comparison, I’ve included the same text, from the same text file, but printed on the Xerox Iridesse and the HP Indigo 7900. In both cases, all text was converted to K only. And just look at the text… Landa Nano left, Iridesse at the center, HP Indigo right. The text is a 10 point Alegreya Sans Regular.
The screening is maybe not what you expected. No traditional screening.
The following pictures show fine lines, registration marks and the finest dots you can get: 1%. Several pictures include black lines from a ruler, these lines are 1 mm apart, to give you an idea of the size.
And, as a conclusion, let’s look at the bigger picture, not just the smaller dots.
So, when looking at these samples, when comparing them with other samples from the same file, I’m not impressed. This isn’t the quality you would expect from a technology that is touted to be a real breakthrough, one that uses the slogan: “printing will never be the same again”. The other samples I got from the Xerox Iridesse and HP Indigo 7900 are better, when it comes to color gamut is the Xerox Iridesse even much better.
Over the last eight years, since the launch of Landa Nano, the amount of digital solutions available has grown significantly. Check what is out there. You might be surprised.
After having handled the samples a number of times, I noticed a serious scratch in one of the images… I guessed it might have been caused by the edge of the sheet (it is printed on a 250 gsm paper, which has firm, sharp corners), so I tested it and yes: I did create another scratch just with the edge of the sheet… So scratch resistance might also be an issue. Make sure to put a varnish or lacquer on it!
The secret sample
Now I have to be honest: these samples weren’t the first I laid my eyes on… Some time earlier this year, I had the opportunity to look at official Landa test pages, which are used for machine acceptance. Since there is a strong claim on them and I don’t want to bring the person(s) that gave me the opportunity to look at them into troubles, I couldn’t take pictures, I can’t show images of that print. So you have to trust me on this, but as you will see, it is in line with what I told you above: I’m not impressed.
The official Landa test page shows the Roman 16 pictures. I immediately saw there was something not quite correct with the skin tones. Especially the Asian lady with the white dress didn’t look healthy. Also, some other portraits didn’t look well. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a printed set of the Roman 16 to compare the images to.
Next to these portraits, there is another portrait of a woman, which was shown several times at the top of the sheet. Her skin tones looked great, it was in clear contrast with some of the Roman 16 skin tones. But… there was a clear issue with the rendering of her skin. This wasn’t a smooth skin, there was a clear structure in her forehead. And not a natural structure. So if you want to test the Landa (or any other printing press), do include skin tones. And make the images large enough so you can spot these kinds of defects!
A valuable lesson
If you want to invest in new technology, and you are not the first customer: order a paid print job, e.g. a customer file, at another printer that has that machine. That’s the only way to assess what it will look like in real life! When you go with your test file to the manufacturer, the chances are that it will be printed on an exceptionally well-maintained machine, with the most seasoned operator possible. Neither of these you can afford in daily production. It’s a small price to order a print job at another printer, it’s much cheaper than investing in a printing press and then discover it doesn’t fit your expectations.
This is BTW the reason why I sent the original mail from my private e-mail address, with no link to this blog. It was only when I mentioned my blog in the feedback mail that the printer might have known who he was dealing with. And at that moment, I got a VIP treatment, which I wanted to avoid. I want real-life samples, one that a regular customer will get. Not a print that got a lot of extra care, just because I am a Very Irritating Person.
Why is this important
“Printing will never be the same again”, for eight years already, we have heard this slogan, this promise. It creates expectations. High expectations. But when checked in real life, Landa Nano doesn’t meet these expectations. What I saw, was no more than average, at the most. I’m sorry to bust the hype.
If you need a production machine right now, look for it in a different direction. There are a lot of capable digital and conventional presses on the market. With a short delivery time and producing the quality you expect.
BTW: I wonder how many of the 400+ companies that signed a letter of intent in 2012 are still on the list… And how long they will have to wait to get their order. At this moment, only a dozen have gotten theirs.
From a few people, I got the feedback that the Landa Nano machine I got samples from is “only intended for online jobs, it’s not for the high-quality jobs like your photobook”. Really? Do online print jobs equal to ‘low quality’? Let us do a quick check: my business cards as an amateur photographer. This summer I ordered 100 copies, 25,25 euro (excl. VAT), I had them within three days (could have been the next day, but I didn’t want to pay the premium price for that).
This is what it looks like.
Do you see the text? The white text at the top is a 12 point John Doe, the line just below is 6,2 point John Doe. That becomes challenging… Registration becomes key to be able to reproduce this correctly. And it was no problem at all… With the results from Landa Nano I showed you above, this would probably have gone wrong, the text probably would have either had a halo, or have become illegible.
I’m not sure whether the business cards were printed in offset or digital (correction 19/10/2020: it was printed digitally!), I have no idea where on the sheet my business card was (in the middle makes getting registration easier than in the outer corners). But I do know: this is the quality I expect from an online printer. This is the quality we as customers have become accustomed to. And it will be hard to make customers accept lesser quality prints. It will lead to many customer complaints and reprints. Don’t forget that!
UPDATE 18/10/2020: when browsing through my newspaper (the printed version of course), I wondered: how would the registration issue with the ‘Hi’ compare to a newspaper print? From a conceptual point of view a completely unfair comparison: newspapers aren’t supposed to be high quality print, expectations aren’t as high as for commercial print or packaging.
But take a look at the picture below, take a look how good or how bad the registration is in all three of them. Left is the ‘Hi’ from the Landa Nano print I got, the middle is page 8 from 12 of a newspaper section, the right is page 9 of that same section. And yes, the same magnification factor was used for all the three images.
UPDATE 19/10/2020: my friends at De Grafische Vakpers in The Netherlands, which published the first report on Landa Nano print quality, based on prints from a classic test form they got, confirmed the ‘contaminated’ solids. So it’s not only on my sheets, also a classic test print showed the contamination of the solids with other colors.