I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines rather than an automation specialist, however can provide few hints.
For all automation systems to be effective, you need to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. When you do this, you should specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This enables you to be aware of 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(a lot more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to control their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you’ll need your input devices to get determined. This is often level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices if required. The reason why i’m stating out this routine is always 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 is sold as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically you will find the CPU which is the master brain that is supplemented with I/O device which can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor may 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 work out you IO devices list, then have the necessary software and hardware needed. You may want additional hardware essential for for fancy touch screen HMI, line automation an internet-based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s that the guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions varies depending on different manufacturer offering specifically if you use beckhoff based systems. A great way to start may be to work on existing machines so you study the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the market industry is offering. I suggest visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a no cost automation web based course that can educate you on the infant steps needed.
You need to 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 about the more knowledge about each piece of equipment, regarding how to program or properly connect them, but it is not nuclear physics, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel with this because other engineer. The main aspect of control system design is usually to comprehend the process you’re going to control and also the goals you need to achieve.