I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, however i can give you few hints.
For those automation systems to function, you have to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Whenever you achieve this, you need to specify the motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to know the number and types of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For each motors you may want relay contactors (for single speed discrete/on-off type motors like blower fans and liquid pumps), VFD for speed controllable ac 3-phase motors(much more conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to control their precise movement.
They are your output devices, then you need your input devices being put down. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices if required. The reason i’m stating out this routine would be to let you define the specifications needed 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 which is master brain that is supplemented with I/O device that can 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 receive the necessary hardware and software 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 what sort of guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may vary according to different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start will be to develop existing machines so that you will educate yourself on the basics. Then go have a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the marketplace is offering. I usually suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a no cost automation online course that will show you the infant steps needed.
You have 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 simply need extra training around the more knowledge about each piece of equipment, on how to program or properly connect them, but it’s not brain surgery, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel about this as any other engineer. The main aspect of control system design is usually to view the process you are likely to control as well as the goals you would like to achieve.