I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, on the other hand can give you few hints.
For those automation systems to work, you have to first use a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. When you do so, you have to specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This enables you to understand 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 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 manipulate their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, then you need your input devices to get lay out. This is level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices as needed. The key reason why i’m stating out this routine would be 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 that may be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor could 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 figure out you IO devices list, then receive the necessary hardware and software needed. You will need additional hardware necessary for for fancy touchscreen display HMI, line automation an internet-based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s how a guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions varies depending on different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. A good way to start will be to work on existing machines so you learn the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the marketplace has to offer. It’s my job to suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a no cost automation web based course that can educate you on the child 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 additional training about the information each bit of apparatus, regarding how to program or properly connect them, but it’s not too difficult, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel with this as any other engineer. The key facet of control system design is to see the process you are likely to control as well as the goals you want to achieve.