I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, however can give you few hints.
For many automation systems to be effective, you need to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Whenever you accomplish that, you should specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This lets you have in mind the number and types of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For every motors you will 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(similar to conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to manipulate their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you’ll need your input devices to become lay out. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices as required. The reason i’m stating out this routine is always to enable you to define the specifications needed for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up determined by system complexity.
Most PLC hardware comes as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically there is a CPU which is master brain that is supplemented with I/O device which can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor could 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 figure out you IO devices list, then get the necessary software and hardware needed. You may need additional hardware necessary for for fancy touchscreen HMI, line automation and internet based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s how a guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may differ depending on different manufacturer offering particularly if use beckhoff based systems. The best way to start is to work on existing machines so you learn the basics. Go obtain a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the market can give. I usually suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. They likewise have a free automation online course that can show you the child steps needed.
You need to be capable to design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps you simply need additional training around the details of each piece of apparatus, concerning how to program or properly connect them, however it is not too difficult, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel with this every other engineer. The main part of control system design is always to see the process you will control and the goals you would like to achieve.