A few days before Christmas I rode a subway to a regional train to another subway, then walked a bit to reach the headquarters of FOGRA, the Research Institute for Media Technologies in the town of Aschheim, just outside Munich.
This for me was like a Springsteen fan walking on E Street, but the street in Aschheim is named after Einstein – fitting for the location of this organization.
My purpose in walking on Ensteinstraße that day was to make some measurements using FOGRA’s spectrophotometer. The similar device at my university in Munich will not work with the most recent version of the profiling software. I needed a more modern tool for this work, and FOGRA welcomed me to use theirs.
Berthold Oberhollenzer of FOGRA welcomed me at the entrance and took me up to the measurement lab where I rolled out my press sheet and cut the test panel out of it to put on the bed of the X-Rite i1IO 3 table.
The press sheet I had created was printed on a Landa Nanopress, the first in Europe, also located in Munich. The owner of that press, Blueprint, ran the test sheet for me to give me an opportunity to test the resolution, register, and color qualities of the Nanopress.
I have made a lot of test sheets in my career, usually with color targets, with which to measure the behavior of various offset presses, wide-format ink-jet printers, electrophotographic printers and paper combinations. This was my first full size digital printing press (the Nanopress prints on B1 sheets – 1,000 x 700 mm or 39.37 x 27.55 in.). It is the same size as a Heidelberg 102.
The press has a native resolution of 1,200 ppi (472.4 px/cm). To test that, I used several line art scans I have made at various resolutions: 600, 800, 1,200 and 2,400 ppi. I also made straight and diagonal line sets at various thicknesses from 0.009 pt. (0.00317 mm) to 2 pt. (0.705 mm) and Helvetica Thin type from 1 pt. to 7 pt. – both black-on-white and white-on-black.
Landa’s Nanopress prints with seven colors of ink: CMYK plus orange, blue and green. This is one of the largest color gamuts of any printing press. And, since it uses ink-jet for printing, and because the ink is dry as soon as it touches the paper, there is little to contaminate the colors or reduce the glorious color possibilities of this machine.
I wanted to measure that color space, so I put an RGB color target called an IT9.18 target on the page. The colors in this patch set are defined with RGB values, so I thought that, unhindered, I would get an expanded color gamut on my press sheet from the RGB target, one that would show off the three extra colors on the machine.
And, that is what brought me to FOGRA’s offices outside Munich.
A month earlier, I had picked up some press samples from Blueprint, and was dazzled by the colors on those press sheets. Glorious greens, zesty oranges, and boisterous blues were on the pages that I brought home from my first visit to the plant.
I wanted that same color gamut for my current project, a book about Munich street art, and the seven colors of the Nanopress were calling! I put an RGB image of a colorful hot-air balloon on the press sheet in five variations. Opening it from Camera Raw, I made one version of the image in Apple RGB, sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB (increasingly larger color gamuts). I expected the colors of the ProPhoto version to jump off the page because the color gamut of the Nanopress would closely match that of the image.
What happened is interesting: the sRGB photo looks “brightest” while the Adobe RGB image has the richest gamut. The ProPhoto photo turned a hideous shade of purple; it looks awful.
And, after reading the IT8.19 RGB target as interpreted by the Nanopress (the colors are actually processed by a version of the EFI Fiery RIP at the front-end of that press), the profile that I created is almost exactly the same shape and volume as sRGB.
I obviously did something wrong.
I tested rich black (20, 20, 20, 100) with white type reversed-out; that worked perfectly! There is almost no possibility of register error on the Nanopress because the ink is deposited onto a belt, then transferred to the paper as a complete image. Interestingly, the density of single-color 100 percent black is excellent – much denser than a similar ink on an offset press. I question whether rich black is even needed when printing to the Landa press.
I put a rainbow gradient in RGB across part of the sheet, and that failed in the range of oranges and reds on the left side. I don’t understand what happened there. Conversion of red, green and blue type looks great, and a photo of an orange pick-up truck reproduced beautifully, as did an image of a spiral Aloe plant that has some almost-alien greens in it.
My overall impression of the Nanopress is that it has incredible potential. The color gamut is huge (though I am not sure how to measure it), and the technical qualities of the press are extraordinary.
I will report more about the Nanopress in another blog coming soon.