I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines and never an automation specialist, however can provide you with few hints.
For all those automation systems to function, you need to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Whenever you do so, you must specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to have in mind the number and kinds of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
Per 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 regulate their precise movement.
These are your output devices, then you need your input devices being determined. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices if required. The key reason why i’m stating out this routine would be to enable you to define the specifications essential for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up determined by 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 may 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 software and hardware needed. You may want additional hardware necessary for for fancy touchscreen technology HMI, line automation and internet based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s the way a guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may differ determined by different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. The best way to start may be to focus on existing machines so you educate yourself on the basics. Then go get a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the marketplace is offering. I always suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. Next to your skin a no cost automation web based course which will coach you on the child 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 all you need is additional training for the information every piece of it technology, regarding how to program or properly connect them, but it is not rocket science, an excellent mechanical engineer should probably excel with this because other engineer. The most important part of control system design is always to comprehend the process you are going to control along with the goals you need to achieve.