I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines rather than an automation specialist, however i can provide few hints.
For those automation systems to work, you must first have a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all details finalized. Whenever you achieve this, you need to specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day know the number and types of motors and actuators you will need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For every motors you may want 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 manage their precise movement.
These are your output devices, you’ll need your input devices to get set out. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices if required. The reason i’m stating out this routine is usually to allow you to define the specifications essential for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up depending on system complexity.
Most PLC hardware comes as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically you will find the CPU which is master brain which is supplemented with I/O device that can 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 figure out you IO devices list, then receive the necessary hardware and software needed. You may want additional hardware needed for for fancy touch screen HMI, line automation and online diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s the way a guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions could differ based on different manufacturer offering especially if you use beckhoff based systems. A great way to start will be to work with existing machines so that you discover the basics. Go have a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the market industry is offering. I usually suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. Next to your skin a free of charge automation online course that will educate you on the infant steps needed.
You ought to be in a position to design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps all you need is extra training for the details of each piece of kit, concerning how to program or properly connect them, but it’s not nuclear physics, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel on this every other engineer. The main facet of control system design is always to comprehend the process you’re going to control and also the goals you would like to achieve.