I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines and never an automation specialist, on the other hand can provide you with few hints.
For all those automation systems to work, you have to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan with all details finalized. Whenever you do this, you need to specify the motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to be aware of number and kinds of motors and actuators you may need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For each motors you might 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 manage their precise movement.
These are your output devices, you will want your input devices being lay out. This can be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices if required. The main reason i’m stating out this routine is to let you define the specifications essential 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 there is an CPU the actual master brain that’s supplemented with I/O device that could be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor will 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 work out you IO devices list, then obtain the necessary hardware and software needed. You may need additional hardware essential for for fancy touchscreen display HMI, line automation and internet based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s how a guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may differ based on different manufacturer offering particularly if you use beckhoff based systems. A good way to start can be to work on existing machines so you learn the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the market has to offer. I usually suggest individuals to go through Omron catalogues. They likewise have a no cost automation online course that can teach you the newborn steps needed.
You ought to be in a position to design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps you just need to additional training for the details of each bit of apparatus, on how to program or properly connect them, yet it’s not too difficult, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel about this because other engineer. The most important aspect of control system design is always to view the process you will control and the goals you wish to achieve.