Tyler Schon is founder and CEO of Pliant Power, an advanced materials company making the next generation of batteries using their Electric Plastics. Tyler completed his BSc in chemistry at the University of Western Ontario and his Ph.D. in Polymer and Materials Chemistry at the University of Toronto. In his Ph.D., he worked with Prof. Dwight Seferos on bio-inspired energy storage materials with a focus on lithium-ion batteries. There he discovered a class of Electric Plastic materials that replaced the heavy, expensive, and problematic metals in today’s lithium-ion batteries and he co-founded Pliant in 2017 to commercialize this technology. Since then, Tyler has been a part of the UTEST incubator, the Hatchery LaunchLab, and Creative Destruction Lab and has grown Pliant to a team of 11. Tyler is passionate about solving problems with new technology and in his spare time, enjoys the outdoors. Tyler will be speaking in the upcoming Toronto event.
Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Tyler: Before I started Pliant, I had only seen youtube videos and read a few articles about it. It was excited and I thought it was cool but never really saw it in action. It was only after I started Pliant that I saw it in action at a conference. I was amazed. All I could think of was the almost endless potential of this technology.
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Tyler: Solving real world problems and having a passion for the technology. Problem solving has always motivated me, even before I started working or school, and coupling that with innovative technology is what makes me look forward to every day.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Tyler: Probably the biggest thing that needs to be overcome is finding and convincing the right person in large multinational corporations that what you have is groundbreaking. The problem that the battery industry has is that there is a huge graveyard of companies that have pitched the dream and failed which has made the industry very skeptical. The big thing is trust, and that takes a while to build. It is something that we are still finding the right solution for and likely will remain a challenge going forward.
Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Tyler: Materials. The ability to print different materials that have different properties into a single functional product is a huge challenge that needs to be solved. Formulating those materials into printable inks is another huge problem that takes years of experience to get good at for conventional printing and 3D printer inks add another dimension of complexity. Likely some advanced research tool that couples machine learning and artificial intelligence to speed up that process is part of the solution.
Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?
Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advices you heard should they ignore?
Tyler: Don’t do things that don’t serve a purpose in your life. The purpose can even be ‘it makes me happy’ or ‘if I don’t do this I will get fired’. Time is the most valuable thing you have. Don’t waste it.
Any sort of advice about totally avoiding risk is usually something you should ignore. Anything worthwhile doing is a risk. Obviously, don’t take stupid risks and don’t bet the farm but don’t be afraid of the risk of failure.
Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?
Tyler: Try something impossible.
Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Tyler: Probably starting Pliant. Best risk I ever took.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Tyler: Anything outdoors. I really enjoy camping and everything that goes with it. It lets you get away from the busy life of work and do some self-realization and reflection.
I am passionate about helping people. Whether that be about offering advice, mentoring or helping to solve a problem they are having, that is what I enjoy and it ties very much into the work that I do.
Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?
Tyler: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
Most endeavors that are worthwhile are dependent on you taking risks. People fail all of the time. The important thing is to learn from what you do and build upon that.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)
Tyler: It means using new technology to help people heal. Technology is supposed to help people and I think 3D heals encompasses this central dogma.