Nov 14, 2015 | By Kira

This past summer, Chinese company ZhuoDa Group showcased a most impressive feat within the burgeoning 3D printing construction industry: modular, 3D printed villas that could be printed in a factory, and then assembled on-site within just three hours. Dramatically cutting both production times and costs, the 3D printed two-story villas seemed like a promising solution to the upcoming global housing crisis. However, ZhuoDa is now facing widespread concerns over a contract it signed to sell 3D printed houses to Russia, from which it claims it could earn at least RMB 600bn ($94 billion) a year in revenue due to a high-interest financing ‘innovation’.

As the Financial Times reports, a news website partly-owned by China’s Alibaba Group revealed last week that ZhuoDa New Materials Technology, a unit of ZhuoDa Group, had raised money from 400,000 investors in northern China’s Hebei province by selling financial products to Russia, promising staggeringly high annual returns of 20-30 per cent for a four-year investment. The news website, called Watching, also pointed out that China’s total trade with Russia was less than the multi-billion dollar earnings ZhuoDa claimed it could earn on its own.

In a video response to concerned investors, President of ZhuoDa Group Yang Zhuoshu defended the company’s decision by saying that selling high-yielding investment products to fund his company’s expansion was a “financial innovation.”

“I could do nothing because I have no money. But I want to do stuff; I want to develop our ethnic [Chinese] industry, so I have to raise financing,” he said. “Stop talking about [RMB] 10bn or 100bn—it doesn’t matter, I can repay it.”

“Who says my business can’t be bigger than Chinese trade data? My business is responding to general secretary [Xi Jinping]’s call to open the Russian market,” he continued in his increasingly vexed response, “if you oppose this, then you oppose our supporting Russia’s national construction.”

ZhuoDa has said that it has already begun 3D printing houses out of synthetic wood and bamboo. As we reported in July, the 3D printed houses consist of six modular pieces and are 90% fabricated within a factory similar to how smaller products such as phones or shoes are made, complete with interior decoration, writing, plumbing, furniture and other facilities already installed. The villas take just ten days from the beginning of production in the factory to final assembly on-site, and cost roughly $564/square meter.

According to the company, it has RMB 2tn ($310 billion) in domestic and international orders in hand and estimates the market is worth RMB 15tn (over $2 trillion). The company also claims that the profitability of their business is 33%, which allows servicing loans at high interest rates.

As the Financial Times reports, ZhuoDa has responded aggressively to the report by Watching, sending about 60 employees to the media company’s offices in Beijing to protest the story. They stayed there for 12 hours before the police persuaded them to leave. ZhuoDa has said that Watching did not verify its figure of 400,000 investors, but it did not deny borrowing money from local residents at high interest rates. The Hebei provincial government’s financial affairs office is reportedly investigating ZhuoDa’s fundraising.

We’ll have to wait and see how their ‘financial innovation’ pans out, and whether ZhuoDa truly can make enough profit to repay its investors. Given that it is still so new, it’s hard to say whether the 3D printed housing market will lean more towards the super-fast, super-cheap model proposed by companies such as ZhuoDa, or if consumers will seek more sustainable and viable 3D printed housing solutions. Most likely it will be a mix of both, but either way, competition is sure to be fierce and riddled with future controversies.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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