I’m an area service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, on the other hand can provide you with few hints.
For those automation systems to function, you have to first have a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. Whenever you do so, you have to specify the sort of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day have in mind the number and types of motors and actuators you may 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(more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to control their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you will need your input devices being set out. This can be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches and also other devices as required. The key reason why i’m stating out this routine is always to permit you to define the specifications required 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 which is the 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 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 figure out you IO devices list, then get the necessary software and hardware needed. You will need additional hardware essential for for fancy touchscreen technology 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 varies according to different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. A sensible way to start is to develop existing machines so you discover the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what the market industry provides. It’s my job to suggest visitors to go through Omron catalogues. They also have a free automation web based course that may show you the newborn steps needed.
You should 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 extra training for the details of each bit of it technology, on the way to program or properly connect them, but it is not rocket science, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel with this just like any other engineer. The most important part of control system design is usually to understand the process you are likely to control as well as the goals you would like to achieve.