Contracting someone to make 3D models for printing: suggestions?

Hi all,

I am looking to realize a simple toy I have envisioned, and want to be able to print it out using one of the many online printing services. I have a few questions for anyone who has done this kind of thing before:

  1. I have no digital 3D artistic skills. I am planning on contracting someone to make the design for me. Has anyone had experience with this? Is there a best website for posting my job? Is there a pretty standard format for such a contract (e.g. one initial design plus two iterations based on feedback? Designs must pass acceptance tests on online service? Payment before/after successful printing)?
  2. I see that Shapeways accepts designs in STL, OBJ, X3D, DAE, Collada or VRML97/2 (WRL). I know nothing about the different formats. Is this list pretty standard, so if I decide that another site offers better quality/prices, the file that my artist makes for me in one of those formats should be pretty acceptable to the rest?
  3. And speaking of which, thoughts on good online services? I am hoping to print in metal, and I know Shapeways has a few different options for that.

Any other thoughts, tips, horror stories to recount, etc?

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Perhaps @Chentzilla would have some ideas after his 3d printed sphinx project he posted about here.

Since I was “pinged”, I’d just say that I’ll be mostly of no help here, since I designed the models by myself, and had them printed at a local (Moscow, Russia) service. By the way, maybe you should have a look if they do it at your city?
I used STL format – that’s pretty standard for most services, but I’m not even sure if it supports color (my prints were monochrome). As for the tools, I’d say Sculptris is free and pretty simple – some kind of digital clay – so if the toy is really not that elaborate, you may try to try your hand at it. Here’s what I made with no experience at all:

(Though I used Blender for those that look more angular – it’s also free, but much more complicated to work with.)

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Can’t speak to the other questions but those are pretty standard 3D formats, easily created with pretty much any 3D software. Apart from, heh, VRML. That’s a blast from the past.

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