I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines and not an automation specialist, on the other hand can provide you with few hints.
For all those automation systems to be effective, you have to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Whenever you accomplish that, you should specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day have in mind the number and kinds of motors and actuators you 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(more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to manage their precise movement.
These are generally your output devices, you’ll need your input devices being determined. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices when needed. The reason why i’m stating out this routine is usually to enable you to define the specifications necessary for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up based on system complexity.
Most PLC hardware comes as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically there is a 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 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 workout you IO devices list, then receive the necessary hardware and software needed. You might need additional hardware essential for for fancy touchscreen HMI, line automation and internet-based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s that the guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may vary according to different manufacturer offering particularly if use beckhoff based systems. A good way to start is to develop existing machines so that you learn the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the market is offering. I suggest visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a no cost automation online course which will coach you on the newborn steps needed.
You have to be able to design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps all you need is some additional training about the specifics of each bit of kit, regarding how to program or properly connect them, but it is not rocket science, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel for this because other engineer. The most important aspect of control system design is usually to see the process you’re going to control along with the goals you need to achieve.