I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines and never an automation specialist, however can provide few hints.
For those automation systems to function, you have to first have a clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. When you do this, you should specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to 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 regulate their precise movement.
These are generally your output devices, you will need your input devices being lay out. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and other devices as needed. The main reason i’m stating out this routine is to enable you to define the specifications required for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up depending on system complexity.
Most PLC hardware comes as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically there is a CPU the master brain that’s supplemented with I/O device which can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor may have servo card 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 have the necessary software and hardware needed. You might need additional hardware required 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 differ determined by different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. The best way to start is to focus on existing machines so that you will learn the basics. Go have a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the market industry provides. I always suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. They likewise have a no cost automation online course which will show you the newborn steps needed.
You should be in a position 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 about the information each piece of kit, on the way to program or properly connect them, but it is not brain surgery, an excellent mechanical engineer should probably excel on this every other engineer. The most crucial facet of control system design is to view the process you are going to control as well as the goals you want to achieve.