I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, but i can provide few hints.
For those automation systems to operate, you need to first use a clear and detailed mechanical plan effortlessly details finalized. Whenever you achieve this, you need to specify the sort of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. This allows you to be aware of number and types of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
Per 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 control their precise movement.
They are your output devices, you will need your input devices to be determined. This is often level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches along with other devices as required. The main reason i’m stating out this routine is always to enable you to define the specifications needed for your control system hardware requirements. All PLC manufacturers layout their product line-up based 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 could 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 work out you IO devices list, then receive the necessary hardware and software needed. You will need additional hardware necessary for for fancy touch screen HMI, line automation and online diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s how a guy with mechanical background can approach complex automation problems.
The solutions may vary determined by different manufacturer offering particularly if you use beckhoff based systems. A good way to start may be to develop existing machines so you study the basics. Go get a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand what industry provides. I usually suggest visitors to go through Omron catalogues. There is also a totally free automation online course that will show you the baby 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 all you need is additional training on the more knowledge about every bit of equipment, regarding how to program or properly connect them, however it is not rocket science, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel for this as any other engineer. The most crucial facet of control system design is to comprehend the process you’re going to control along with the goals you wish to achieve.