I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, however i can provide you with few hints.
For those automation systems to operate, you need to first use a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. If you do this, you have to specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day understand the number and kinds of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For every motors you may want 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 manipulate their precise movement.
These are your output devices, you will need your input devices to be set out. This is often level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices if required. The reason i’m stating out this routine would be to let you define the specifications required 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 there is a CPU the actual master brain that is supplemented with I/O device that may be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor can 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 workout you IO devices list, then have the necessary software and hardware needed. You may need additional hardware required for for fancy touchscreen display 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 may vary determined by different manufacturer offering specifically if you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start is to develop existing machines so that you study the basics. Go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what industry has to offer. I always suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a no cost automation web based course that will show you the baby steps needed.
You ought 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 for the details of every piece of apparatus, concerning how to program or properly connect them, but it is not too difficult, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel about this because other engineer. The key aspect of control system design is usually to comprehend the process you’re going to control and the goals you wish to achieve.