History of the Indigo Digital Press
Posted on February 14, 2013 | 0 comments
Indigo is a company that develops and manufactures digital offset printing presses and workflow solutions, and was originally founded by Benny Landa in 1977. Now part of HP, its headquarters are in Ness Ziona, Israel. HP Indigo presses are used in production commercial and label converting environments to print applications such as marketing collateral (e.g. brochures, business cards, posters, etc.) photo specialty, direct mail, labels, folding cartons, flexible packaging, books, manuals, and specialty applications . Its ability to print without films and plates enables it to create personalized short runs, changing text, images and jobs without having to stop the press. Each press has up to 7 color stations, which can use cyan, magenta, yellow, black and a variety of special and spot color inks, such as white, UV Red and transparent.
Early YearsThe name of the press series, Indigo, comes from a company formed by Benny Landa in 1977. Landa, known as the father of digital offset color printing, was born in Poland to post-World War II Jewish refugee parents, who later immigrated to Edmonton, Canada. His interest in printing goes back to the time he worked as a child in his father's photo shop. His father purchased a cigar store that had a small photo studio in the back which he developed, using his skills as a carpenter, into his own portrait studio. He then started taking passport photos for labourers who needed them for their ID cards. Utilizing his own equipment he was able to produce “direct-positive” photos, avoiding the need for film and printing images directly on paper, years before photo booths became commonplace. While a student in London, Landa got a job at Commercial Aid Printing Services (CAPS), a company offering printing services and microfilm solutions. Landa was instrumental in developing a solution that won the company a contract with Rolls Royce and was appointed as Head of R&D. However, CAPS lacked manufacturing capital and went into receivership in 1969. In 1971 he joined Gerald Frankel, the owner of CAPS, and founded a new company - Imaging Technology (Imtec). Imtec became the largest European vendor of micrographics equipment (microfilm readers and reader/printers). Landa led Imtec’s R&D activities and invented the company’s core imaging technology. While researching liquid toners at Imtec, he worked on a method of high-speed image development that would later lead to his invention of ElectroInk.
Early products and the Launch of the E-Print 1000At the start of the 1990s Indigo moved from a primarily research-driven business into a full-scale printing equipment manufacturing company. The company's first product would be a digital plotter/duplicator, bringing the tiny company (its 1991 sales totaled less than US$5 million, generating a profit of $440,000) head to head with such industry giants as Xerox and Canon. In 1993 Indigo launched the E-Print 1000 at IPEX trade show, which marked a turning point in the printing industry. The E-Print 1000 eliminated the expense and labor of the plate-printing setup process, printing directly from a computer file, and enabled inexpensive short-run color printing. Images not only could be readily changed, they could be changed from page to page, requiring neither additional setup or pauses in the print run. Instead of printing to metal plates, the E-Print created a latent image on the Photo Imaging Plate or PIP through the use of an elecrostatic charge. This charged area would then attract the charged ElectroInk, which would in turn be transferred to the ITM or blanket, and then again transfer from the blanket to the paper or other substrate. Because 100% of the ink transfers from PIP to blanket to substrate, a different image and color could be printed with each rotation of the press. At the same time, Indigo's ElectroInk-based color inks offered print quality rivaling that of traditional printing processes. Almost 20 years later, and despite the numerous technological improvements, Indigo presses are still based on this core technology. 
Early Financial HistoryIn 1977 Landa decided to move to Israel and established Indigo in the town of Rehovot, near Tel Aviv. Later the company reincorporated in the Netherlands for financial purposes. Indigo initially focused on pure technology research and development and selling licenses of its technology to other manufacturer. At the same time Indigo was working on developing the liquid ink technology that was suitable for the quickly growing digital printing market. By the early 1980s Indigo unveiled its ElectroInk, a liquid ink that when heated was transformed into plastic. Throughout the decade Indigo continued to invest heavily in its research and development activities, building a patent portfolio that the company itself would refer to as a "patent fence." By the early 1990s the company had refined its ElectroInk technology to the point where it was ready to compete not only with xerographic imaging, but as well with traditional short-run printing techniques. In support of its move into full-scale manufacturing of the E-Print, Landa began seeking additional financing. This was provided by George Soros who in June 1993 bought 14 percent of the equity of Indigo for $50 million, the remainder of the equity remained owned by Benny Landa. The purchase was the first investment Soros has made in Israel. In 1994 Indigo had an initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock exchange, selling 52 million shares at $20 per share and raising $100 million. The offering reduced Landa's personal holding in Indigo to 70 percent. As the stock continued to climb, the following year, Landa's paper worth reached some $2 billion by 1995. The company's revenues reached $13 million in 1993 and $73 million in 1994, by 1995 300 E-Print machines were sold and revenues reached $165. In 1995 Indigo launched another revolutionary product: the Omnius press. Whereas E-Print focused on medium-volume single-sheet printing, Omnius brought digital printing to a variety of surfaces, including plastic, cardboard, film, and, especially, cans, bottles, and other packaging surfaces. The Omnius's chief market target was the packaging industry. Based on the same technology as the E-Print, the Omnius enabled economical color printing for print runs under 100,000 on such surfaces as soda cans or product boxes—making the machine an ideal marketing tool. At the end of 1995, Indigo sales did not reach the expected levels, and the company found itself overstaffed. Despite a strong rise in revenues to $165 million, the company posted its fourth year of losses, of about $40 million. George Soros however still believed in the company’s potential and increased his investment to 30 percent of Indigo's shares by 1997. By 1998 the company improved its financial performance and revenues passed the $200 million mark for the first time.
Sale to HPHewlett Packard company made a $100m investment in Indigo, buying 14.8 million of Indigo's common shares, which represented 13.4 percent of the company's outstanding shares. On September 6, 2001 HP announced that it will acquire the remaining outstanding shares of Indigo Indigo N.V. (NASDAQ: INDG) for approximately $629 million in HP common stock and a potential future cash payment of up to $253 million contingent upon Indigo's achievement of long-term revenue goals, for an aggregate potential payment of up to $882 million. Following the acquisition, Benny Landa became a strategic advisor to HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Landa was quoted saying:
"Our vision has always been to lead the printing industry into the digital era and to see Indigo technology pervade the commercial printing market. Now, as part of HP, that goal is in sight."In the following years, HP continued to invest in Israel-based graphic arts companies, acquiring Scitex Vision in 2005 and Nur Macroprinters in 2007. HP workforce in Israel (which includes not only employees of the Indigo division, but also of [Scitex], [HP Labs], [HP Software] and others) reached 5,500 people in 2010, making HP the country’s second-largest foreign employer after Intel.