I’m a field service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, on the other hand can provide you with few hints.
For many automation systems to be effective, you must first use a clear and detailed mechanical plan with all of details finalized. When you accomplish that, you have to specify the type of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This enables you to know the number and types of motors and actuators you need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
Per 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(similar to conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to regulate their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you’ll need your input devices to be determined. This could be level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices as required. The key reason why 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 is sold as reconfigurable rack chassis. Basically there is a CPU which is the master brain which can be supplemented with I/O device that can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor may 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 figure out you IO devices list, then receive the necessary hardware and software needed. You may need additional hardware needed for for fancy touch screen HMI, line automation and internet-based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s the way 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. A sensible way to start will be to work with existing machines so that you learn the basics. Go have a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the marketplace can give. I suggest website visitors to go through Omron catalogues. There is also a free automation web based course that may educate you on the newborn 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 just need extra training about the more knowledge about every bit of apparatus, on the way to program or properly connect them, but it is not too difficult, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel for this because other engineer. The key element of control system design is usually to comprehend the process you are likely to control and the goals you wish to achieve.