Renowned book printer Trifolio takes great pride in creating its own works of art that replicate in stunning detail the masterpieces they contain. In its never-ending quest to constantly raise the standard of what can be achieved on the pages of books, the printer recently expanded its use of LED-UV curing with the installation of a second lamp. This move, says Trifolio’s owner, proves that the company has only begun to tap the technology’s potential.
Based in Verona, Italy, Trifolio produces art and photography books for world-class institutions ranging from the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, to the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation and Princeton and Yale universities, along with prestigious art galleries Dominique Lévy and David Zwirner, both of which have spaces in New York City, London, and Hong Kong.
From its beginning two decades ago, Trifolio committed to devoting its expertise to producing high-quality books to meet the exacting requirements of museums, galleries, upscale publishers, photographers, artists, and designers. The majority of company clients is based in the United States and demand consistently outstanding work, with perfect color on every project. They choose Trifolio for its cutting-edge approach to continual innovation by pushing the boundaries of traditional printing.
“We are very well known in the U.S. because of our [approach that is different from] most standard book printers,” said Trifolio owner, Massimo Tonolli. “We are very small and don’t want to compete with big companies that mass-produce thousands of books. Important artists and shows, galleries, [and] production managers think about Trifolio as being different, from our pigment and inks and technology to our processes—our entire approach. When you open our books, you see something different.”
Expressing his passion for his craft, Tonolli went on to explain that Trifolio views each book as an individual project, containing within its pages a new story to tell. It works closely with each client to interpret and translate their vision into a working plan, adopting the most innovative technologies and materials to best ensure the superior quality and unique character of each volume. At the same time, its focus is on preserving the creative spirit and expertise of the artists and photographers featured on the pages.
Among the advanced technologies Trifolio employs is LED-UV curing. The process was in its infancy in Europe in 2014 when Tonolli, ever focused on leading the charge in producing top-rate art books, discovered it while researching online. Soon after, he attended a live LED-UV printing demonstration by AMS Spectral UV and was sold on the technology, for both the quality of printed pages and the efficiency and cleanliness of the process.
The company has used the technology since early 2017, when it first equipped its Heidelberg CD 102-5 sheet-fed press with a repositionable XP9 LED-UV curing module from AMS Spectral UV.
“With print paintings, we strive to match the real paintings as exactly as possible. When the subject is famous artists like Picasso and van Gogh, we feel we’re doing something important that must be on paper in the best way, for respect,” Tonolli said. “Museums and galleries can go through one, two, three, four proofs to go on press. The fidelity of the colors is extremely important and the quality of the dots on paper with LED UV is amazing.”
Taking the technology to another level a year ago, Trifolio installed an interdeck-mount AMS LED-UV lamp between two units, which fixes the first layer of ink on the printed surface before overprinting it on the next unit. “The result is much better with the extra lamp drying the first layer. The image is deeper, more two dimensional,” Tonolli stated.
He noted that traditional solvent-based inks dry slowly by evaporation, giving them time to absorb into the paper, which is the reason colors can be less vibrant. This “dry back” is much more pronounced on uncoated stocks. The special inks used in UV printing are formulated to cure instantly and can be bolder and more vibrant than conventional offset inks because there is virtually no dry back, and instantly dry sheets that come off an LED-equipped press do not need coatings for protection.
With its installation of the AMS Spectral LED-UV system, the printer eliminated spray powder from the print process, making for a cleaner pressroom and faster print speeds that improve turnaround time and reduce labor.
“Quality, quality, quality is the way to survive in this tough environment, and when Trifolio says it provides the best quality in the world, it truly provides the best quality in the world,” commented Carsten Barlebo, vice president, LED UV for AMS Spectral UV – Europe, EMEA/Russia/Africa. He emphasized that while LED UV puts unprecedented capabilities into the printer’s hands, it’s the way they apply the technology that ultimately sets them apart.
Tonolli said while LED UV has become a game changer, it was not initially an easy sell. “I ran into a wall with production managers because they knew the downsides of traditional UV and did not have an understanding of UV LED,” he recalled. “The UV ink smelled awful with the old systems; it smelled bad when they opened the book,” he added. By contrast, LED UV does not produce any noxious smell.
“We had to explain that LED is a new technology and it’s neutral, without that odor and [with] superior quality and faster production speed,” he said. “Proof by proof by proof, they understood better. Now, many production managers when they want an estimate request LED UV, especially those who understand the system and the faster production, not waiting for ink to dry.”
In the age of digital and multimedia technology, the boutique printer emphasized, the printed book, with its centuries of tradition, must necessarily evolve. It will increasingly be aimed at a niche market of connoisseurs and collectors who look for and appreciate exceptional workmanship in the printed volume, according to Tonolli.
In addition to remaining at the forefront of technological research in high-quality printing, and investing substantial resources in the development of new processes in the service of art publishing, Tonolli credited the company’s highly skilled and professional team. They make the magic happen, he said, not only by applying their expertise but by sharing his passion for the trade, without which Trifolio would not stand apart from the crowd.
Trifolio invites clients to actively involve their own technicians in the preliminary phase of a book’s graphic design. This collaboration ensures the development of a high-quality product that will both meet the client’s expectations and be optimized for subsequent production phases, from prepress to binding.
“Innovation is the key to discovering solutions compatible with the realization of a book of exceptional originality,” Tonolli emphasized. “The client’s requirements serve to stimulate the technicians at Trifolio to experiment with procedures, techniques, and technologies, in dialogue and in full cooperation with the client.”
Tonolli explained that for museums, a book is the catalogue of their permanent collection, or the testimony and remains after the closing of a temporary exhibition. It is the only souvenir of the artistic experience that visitors can take away with them.
For the most avant-garde galleries, Trifolio views itself not as a printer, but as an active partner in spreading their image within the art world by creating original and innovative books that reflect the artistic spirit that inspires their work.
“For Trifolio, each book is a work of art that the artist can realize together with our technicians,” Tonolli summed up. “It translates the individual language of the artist into a form accessible to all. Trifolio does not regard the book as a mere illustrated volume, but as an artist’s catalogue, or rather, an artist’s book that can be produced in a large number of copies using traditional printing presses.”