I’m an industry service engineer for food packaging machines instead of an automation specialist, on the other hand can provide few hints.
For many automation systems to function, you need to first have a very clear and detailed mechanical plan wonderful details finalized. If you achieve this, you should specify the kind of motions involved, e.g.: linear or rotary. Each day understand the number and kinds of motors and actuators you’ll need(servo, ac single phase, ac 3 phase, pneumatic actuator).
For each and 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(a lot more like conveyors, liquid tank level control pumps or rollers).Servo motors need Servo drivers to manipulate their precise movement.
They’re your output devices, you’ll need your input devices to get lay out. This is level sensors, flow sensors, proximity switches as well as other devices as required. The key reason why i’m stating out this routine is to enable you to define the specifications required 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 there is an CPU the master brain that’s supplemented with I/O device which can be slotted in like cards. Additional complex systems which needs servo motor will have servo card 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 exercise you IO devices list, then have the necessary software and hardware needed. You might need additional hardware necessary for for fancy touch screen HMI, line automation and internet based diagnostic and asset monitoring functions. That’s how a 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 is to work on existing machines so you learn the basics. Then go get yourself a few catalogs from reputable manufacturers to understand the marketplace is offering. I usually suggest individuals to go through Omron catalogues. There is also a free of charge automation online course that may show you the child steps needed.
You should be able to design complete PLC systems: architecture design, hardware specfications and selection, logic narratives, logic programming, connection drawings. Everything. Perhaps all you need is some additional training for the details of each piece of kit, on how to program or properly connect them, but it’s not rocket science, a fantastic mechanical engineer should probably excel with this just like any other engineer. The key aspect of control system design would be to understand the process you’re going to control as well as the goals you need to achieve.