I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines and not an automation specialist, however i can give you few hints.
For all automation systems to operate, you must first possess a clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Once you achieve this, you have to specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This lets you know the number and kinds 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(similar to conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to manage their precise movement.
They are your output devices, then you need your input devices being set out. This is level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices as required. The reason i’m stating out this routine is always 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 the master brain that’s supplemented with I/O device that may be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor can 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 have the necessary hardware and software needed. You may want additional hardware essential for for fancy touchscreen HMI, line automation and online diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s that the guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may differ according to different manufacturer offering particularly if use beckhoff based systems. A good way to start can be to work on existing machines so that you can study the basics. Go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what industry can give. It’s my job to suggest people to go through Omron catalogues. They likewise have a totally free automation online course which will coach you on the child steps needed.
You ought to be capable of design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps you simply need additional training for the details of each piece of apparatus, regarding how to program or properly connect them, however it is not too difficult, a great mechanical engineer should probably excel on this as any other engineer. The most important element of control system design would be to see the process you are going to control and also the goals you want to achieve.