I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines rather than an automation specialist, however i can give you few hints.
For all automation systems to operate, you must first possess a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. Once you do so, you have to specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This enables you to know the number and types of motors and actuators you may need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For every motors you will need relay contactors (for single speed discrete/on-off type motors like blower fans and liquid pumps), VFD for speed controllable ac 3-phase motors(more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to manage their precise movement.
They are your output devices, you will need your input devices being determined. This is often level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices when needed. The reason i’m stating out this routine is always to let you define the specifications needed for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up depending on system complexity.
Most PLC hardware is sold as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically you will find the CPU which is master brain that is supplemented with I/O device that could be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor could have servo card to get in touch with servo driver, communication bus cards like CAN-BUS, PROFIBUS and DEVICENET and sensor cards for special sensors like RTD temperature sensors and level sensors.
So figure out you IO devices list, then obtain the necessary software and hardware needed. You may want additional hardware needed for for fancy touchscreen technology HMI, line automation and internet based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s that the guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may differ determined by different manufacturer offering specifically if you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start can be to focus on existing machines so that you will study the basics. Then go get a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the marketplace can give. It’s my job to suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They likewise have a free of charge automation web based course that will coach you on the newborn steps needed.
You ought to be capable of design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps you just need some additional training around the details of each bit of kit, regarding how to program or properly connect them, however it is not brain surgery, a good mechanical engineer should probably excel on this just like any other engineer. The most important facet of control system design is to see the process you will control and also the goals you would like to achieve.