Aussie connection to digital’s next frontier


Liquid toner digital printing owes its existence to work conducted by the Research Laboratories of Australia Ltd, an organisation established in South Australia in 1959. I first learned of them in 2010 when they came to visit me in Boston.


Miyakoshi funded research at RLA and showed a liquid toner press at Drupa 2008. The MD Press 5000 ran at 100 metres per minute (mpm). In 2009, RLA’s Alexander Ozerov was granted a patent on a high-speed electrographic process using high-viscosity toner carried in a liquid. It has the advantage of not emitting VOCs.

Time for a little history. At the Defence Standards Laboratory in Adelaide, Ken Metcalfe and Bob Wright developed a wet photocopying process that could resolve much finer detail using microparticles suspended in a carrier liquid. Because Benny Landa used liquid toner in the 1993 Indigo, many consider him the inventor. But Benny told me that Metcalf invented liquid toner in 1952. Benny was instrumental in making it work. Metcalfe did receive an MBE for his work but was generally unrecognised for his contributions.

All of a sudden, liquid toner colour printing is a hot topic. Canon-Océ, Ryobi, and Xeikon have all announced new liquid toner printers, in addition to the many improvements by HP Indigo.

Miyakoshi and Ryobi’s jointly developed liquid toner machine entered the B2 digital sector at Drupa 2012. It can reach 8,000 sheets per hour. It offers 1,200dpi by utilising an ultra-fine particle liquid toner.

Digital printing pioneer Xeikon used Drupa to show a prototype web-fed digital printing system, but it has eschewed inkjet for liquid toner. Trillium will be the first implementation of Xeikon’s High Viscosity Toner (HVT) technology, formally called Quantum.

Xeikon says it is compatible with existing deinking and recycling installations and uses the same type of polyester resin system in Xeikon’s dry toners.

Another liquid toner announcement took place not in Düsseldorf, but in Poing, Germany. Canon-Océ introduced the new Océ InfiniStream technology. Executives stressed theirs was a technology announcement and a full launch is expected within 12-18 months.

The press is very long, even before inline finishing is attached. A Manroland paper transport system is used. This new platform is targeted at the folding carton market, which opens up new opportunities for Canon-Océ, and will be launched as a simplex product. The platform is designed to deliver productivity for the majority of folding carton press runs and printing on standard offset media (glossy and uncoated carton board) at offset quality.

The Océ InfiniStream technology utilises liquid toner with uniform colorants. This enables the laying down of a very thin ink layer for low ink consumption and cost effectiveness. The goal is to achieve the same ink layer thickness as offset. The technology also incorporates a heatless wet-in-wet image transfer.

The InfiniStream technology takes roll-fed media and is capable of producing up to 14,000 B2 sheets or 7,200 B1 sheets per hour. The maximum thickness of the media is 600 microns. Canon-Océ says the press will be optimised for runs of 5,000 to 10,000 sheets and will support up to seven print stations. The joint vendors anticipate the need to have at least six colours for packaging. The heat fusing process is emissions free, and also recycles the hot air used to evaporate the oil.

And, of course, the new Landa nanographic printers are liquid toner but delivered through jetting. Landa nano technology replaces the oil with water.

While Benny Landa is the godfather of digital print and captured the attention of thousands of Drupa attendees with his technology announcement, other suppliers also introduced new technology that will have a profound impact.

Frank Romano is professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology

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