I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, but i can present you with few hints.
For many automation systems to be effective, you must first have a clear and detailed mechanical plan wonderful details finalized. If you do so, you must specify the motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to understand the number and types of motors and actuators you will 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(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 will want your input devices being put down. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices if required. The reason why i’m stating out this routine would be to permit you to define the specifications necessary 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 master brain which can be supplemented with I/O device that could be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor may have servo card to get in touch 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 receive the necessary software and hardware needed. You might need additional hardware needed 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 varies based on different manufacturer offering particularly if use beckhoff based systems. A great way to start will be to work with existing machines so that you will study the basics. Go get a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the market can give. I always suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. Next to your skin a totally free automation online course which will teach you the newborn 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 just need extra training on the specifics of every piece of apparatus, regarding how to program or properly connect them, but it is not nuclear physics, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel with this as any other engineer. The most important aspect of control system design is always to view the process you’re going to control and the goals you wish to achieve.