I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines and not an automation specialist, but i can give you few hints.
For all automation systems to function, you must first possess a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. Whenever you do this, you need to specify the motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day be aware of number and types of motors and actuators you will need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For each 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(a lot more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to control their precise movement.
These are your output devices, you will want your input devices to be determined. This is often level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and other devices as required. The reason i’m stating out this routine is usually to let you define the specifications essential for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up according to system complexity.
Most PLC hardware comes as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically you have the CPU the actual master brain which can be supplemented with I/O device which can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor could have servo card for connecting 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 exercise you IO devices list, then receive the necessary software and hardware needed. You may want additional hardware required for for fancy touch screen 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 you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start is to work with existing machines so that you will learn the basics. Go obtain a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the market provides. I always suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. They likewise have a free of charge automation web based course that will coach you on the child steps needed.
You ought 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 to some additional training about the information every piece of it technology, regarding how to program or properly connect them, yet it’s not brain surgery, a good mechanical engineer should probably excel on this because other engineer. The key part of control system design is always to view the process you are likely to control along with the goals you want to achieve.