I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, however can provide you with few hints.
For all those automation systems to be effective, you should first possess a clear and detailed mechanical plan wonderful details finalized. If you accomplish that, you need to specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to know the number and types of motors and actuators you may 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(much more conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to manipulate their precise movement.
They are your output devices, you’ll need your input devices to get put down. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices when needed. The reason why i’m stating out this routine is to allow 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 you have the CPU which is master brain that is supplemented with I/O device that could 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 exercise you IO devices list, then obtain the necessary software and hardware needed. You will need additional hardware required for for fancy touchscreen technology 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 based on different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. The best way to start may be to work on existing machines so you discover the basics. Then go obtain a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what industry has to offer. I usually suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a totally free automation online course which will coach you on the baby steps needed.
You have to be in a position 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 more knowledge about every bit of it technology, on how to program or properly connect them, but it is not too difficult, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel for this just like any other engineer. The key part of control system design is to understand the process you’re going to control and also the goals you would like to achieve.