I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, however i can provide you with few hints.
For all automation systems to operate, you must first have a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. When you accomplish that, you need to specify the motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day have in mind the number and kinds of motors and actuators you 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(similar to conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to control their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you will want your input devices to be lay out. This is level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and also other devices when needed. The reason why i’m stating out this routine is usually to allow you to define the specifications required for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up determined by system complexity.
Most PLC hardware is sold as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically there is a CPU the actual master brain that’s supplemented with I/O device which can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor will 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 work out you IO devices list, then have the necessary software and hardware needed. You will need additional hardware required for for fancy touchscreen HMI, line automation and online diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s that the guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may vary based on different manufacturer offering particularly if use beckhoff based systems. A great way to start is to work on existing machines so that you can study the basics. Go have a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand industry is offering. I always suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. There is also a free of charge automation online course that can show you the newborn steps needed.
You need to be capable to 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 information every piece of apparatus, on the way to program or properly connect them, yet it’s not rocket science, a good mechanical engineer should probably excel about this just like any other engineer. The main element of control system design is always to comprehend the process you will control along with the goals you wish to achieve.