I’ve got a low-volume ABS handheld application where the client wants the handle (and everything else) painted. Our first round of prototypes we used soft touch, but after a short time in the field about 60% of it had rubbed off.
I’m not too familiar with the painting world (especially on plastics), so before I start hounding suppliers I figured I’d toss it up here to see if anyone has experience with some really durable paint.
You need to talk to your supplier. Or find a supplier that specializes in motorcycle or automotive parts. They use a lot of painted plastics and know how to make them durable. I know one in Montreal, if that helps.
I worked in the automotive refinishing industry for close to 8 years so I will try and help out on this one.
What you want to use really depends on what kind of surface you want on the part, glossy, rubber-like, matte, etc. Most, if not all, car bumpers are a blend of ABS and something. These are painted everyday, all over the world, so the technology is there, you just need to find it. If you just need a standard finish, go to any automotive refinishing supply and talk to someone there. Some places can’t/won’t sell to you if you aren’t a pro, but with a tax ID number and a company card or check, you should be in business. Next, are you spraying it with a gun, airbrush, or are you limited to spraycans? I recommend using a gun (HVLP) or an airbrush using catalyzed paints (wear a respirator) because it’s what the pros do and will give you a lasting finish. If you need some kind of exotic finish, I suggest going with someone like Alsa http://www.alsacorp.com/. They make all kinds of crazy finishes, including one that looks almost exactly like chrome. Oh, and lead has more or less been outlawed in the US for use in automotive finishes, so don’t sweat it. It was only really present in the bright oranges, yellows, and reds from what I understand. Don’t fret, you too can be a paintmeister capable of the best models one can imagine. Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions, as there is a TON of information out there, you just have to know where to look.
Forget powder, bake temperature can be an issue other than with plastics than can go over 300 F. 2k urethanes like Imron may stick on your plastic with the correct adhesion promoter, but you won’t get the feel you want.
Interiors of vehicles have soft touch paints on ABS that are durable. For example in GM’s premium pickups the dash is painted with soft touch for scratch resistance.
The issue you will have is the volume of coating you need. Akzo Nobel - Industrial Coatings Division, Waukegan IL, and United Paint (Detroit, MI) manufacture and supply this kind of coating. Again the issue will be volume.
Good luck and sorry for not having seen this post sooner.