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9 December, 2022

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Four-year project delivers Ethernet-APL for process users

24 August, 2022

After almost four years of collaboration, four industrial communications organisations – FieldComm Group, ODVA, OPC Foundation, and Profibus & Profinet International (PI) – have announced the availability a two-wire, IS (intrinsically safe) physical communications layer for process applications called Ethernet-APL (Advanced Physical Layer), capable of transmitting at speeds of up to 10Mbit. The development tackles numerous barriers that have previous limited the deployment of high-speed Ethernet in hazardous process automation facilities.

Ethernet-APL is an extension of the specification for Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) based on 10Base-T1L, which supports higher-order Ethernet protocols. The physical layer has been adapted to provide a resilient, isolated and powered Ethernet network for use in process automation. Ethernet-APL enabled field devices connect directly to this network.

Ethernet-APL’s claimed benefits include dramatically faster communications speeds, the ability to power field instruments, and to install cable runs of up to 1km. As a single physical layer, Ethernet-APL supports EtherNet/IP, Hart-IP, OPC UA, Profinet and other high-level networking protocols. The two-wire system is also claimed to simplify the installation, configuration and maintenance of instruments and automation technologies. In some cases, existing wiring can be re-used.

The project has been supported by 12 industrial partners, including ABB, Emerson, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Siemens and Yokogawa.

For the experts involved in the APL Project, it was important that the specifications of IEEE 802.3cg (10Base-T1L) were suitable for use in process automation. To achieve an IS system that meets the needs of process users, they worked with the IS certification body TÜV to validate the explosion protection concepts and to prepare Ethernet-APL as an IEC standard.

The APL Project has delivered:
• specifications to create a system for multiple power levels, with and without hazardous area protection;
• engineering guidelines and best practices for planning and installation; and
• conformance test specifications and test tools.

A typical application of Ethernet-APL showing how it can reach up to 1km between switches on the trunk
Image: Ethernet-APL

To support rapid implementation of Ethernet-APL in products, the project team worked with semiconductor manufacturers to develop 10Base-T1L Phy chipsets for Ethernet-APL. This allowed the first products to be launched before the project had ended.

According to the project team, end-users have shown a great interest in adopting Ethernet-APL. BASF and Procter & Gamble have already completed field trials, demonstrating that Ethernet-APL is indeed suitable for use in process applications.

The FieldComm Group has worked with other members of the project group to develop test specifications and processes for Ethernet-APL products. The first products to achieve registration are rail field switches from Pepperl+Fuchs.

The standards organisations that participated in the project have agreed to maintain the technical and marketing assets and to continue their standardisation work. There is a dedicated Web site, a White Paper, a PowerPoint presentation and training materials.




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