I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines and not an automation specialist, however can give you few hints.
For all automation systems to operate, you must first use a clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Once you accomplish that, you must specify the 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).
For every 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 control their precise movement.
They are your output devices, you will want your input devices to be lay out. This can be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices as needed. The reason i’m stating out this routine is always to let you define the specifications needed 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 you will find the CPU the master brain which 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 workout you IO devices list, then receive the necessary software and hardware needed. You may want additional hardware needed for for fancy touch screen 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 varies based on different manufacturer offering specifically if you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start will be to work with existing machines so you study the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the market industry can give. I suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a no cost automation web based course which will teach you the newborn steps needed.
You should be able to design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps you simply need some additional training for the details of every piece of it technology, concerning how to program or properly connect them, but it is not brain surgery, an excellent mechanical engineer should probably excel with this as any other engineer. The key aspect of control system design is usually to see the process you’re going to control and also the goals you wish to achieve.