I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines and never an automation specialist, however can present you with few hints.
For all those automation systems to function, you have to first have a clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. When you do so, you need to specify the motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This lets you be aware of number and kinds of motors and actuators you will need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For each and every 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(a lot more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to control their precise movement.
These are generally your output devices, you will need your input devices to be lay out. This can be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and other devices as required. The main reason i’m stating out this routine is usually to let you 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 the master brain that is supplemented with I/O device that could be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor can have servo card in order 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 exercise you IO devices list, then obtain the necessary software and hardware needed. You will need additional hardware necessary for for fancy touchscreen technology 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 differ based on different manufacturer offering specifically if you use beckhoff based systems. The best way to start is to develop existing machines so that you learn the basics. Then go get a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the market industry has to offer. I usually suggest visitors to go through Omron catalogues. There is also a no cost automation online course that may show you the child steps needed.
You have 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 to some additional training around the information each piece of apparatus, concerning how to program or properly connect them, but it is not nuclear physics, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel on this as any other engineer. The most important facet of control system design would be to view the process you will control along with the goals you wish to achieve.