I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines and never an automation specialist, but i can provide you with few hints.
For many automation systems to be effective, you should first use a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all details finalized. Whenever you do so, you need to specify the sort of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day understand the number and types of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
Per motors you may 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 control their precise movement.
They are your output devices, you will want your input devices to be put down. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and other devices when needed. The key reason why i’m stating out this routine is usually to permit you to 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 there is an CPU the actual master brain that is supplemented with I/O device that may be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor can have servo card in order to connect 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 get the necessary hardware and software needed. You may want additional hardware needed for for fancy touchscreen 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 vary based on different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start will be to work with existing machines so that you can educate yourself on the basics. Go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the market industry can give. I always suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a free automation web based course which will teach you the newborn 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 additional training on the more knowledge about every piece of apparatus, regarding how to program or properly connect them, but it’s not too difficult, a good mechanical engineer should probably excel with this every other engineer. The main aspect of control system design is usually to understand the process you are going to control and the goals you want to achieve.