I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines and not an automation specialist, however can provide few hints.
For all those automation systems to function, you must first possess a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. Once you accomplish that, you have to specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This enables you to understand the number and types of motors and actuators you may 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 manipulate their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you will want your input devices being lay out. This can be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and other devices as needed. The reason why i’m stating out this routine is always to allow 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 is sold as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically you will find the CPU which is the master brain that’s supplemented with I/O device that could be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor will 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 exercise you IO devices list, then have the necessary software and hardware needed. You might need additional hardware required for for fancy touch screen 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 depending on different manufacturer offering particularly if you use beckhoff based systems. A great way to start may be to focus on existing machines so that you can educate yourself on the basics. Then go have a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the marketplace has to offer. It’s my job to suggest individuals to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a free of charge automation online course that will coach you on 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 just need extra training about the information each bit of apparatus, on the way to program or properly connect them, however it is not nuclear physics, a good mechanical engineer should probably excel about this as any other engineer. The most crucial part of control system design is usually to comprehend the process you’re going to control as well as the goals you want to achieve.