Figure 1: Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer (APL) is a two-wire, physical layer designated as 10Base0T1L because it allows trunk lines up to 1,000 meters and spurs up to 200 meters, and delivers 10 Mbps communication speeds to field-level devices. On top of this physical layer, Ethernet-APL communicate using Ethernet protocols, such as TCP/IP, Profinet, EtherNet/IP, HART IP, Modbus-TCP and others. It’s also based on the IEEE 802.3CG single-pair Ethernet (SPE) standard, and added power restrictions defined by IEC TS 60079-47 technical specification for two-wire IS Ethernet (2-WISE).

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Ethernet-APL runs at 10 Mbps, faster than protocols like Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus PA or HART

To eliminate networking bottlenecks and let data flow freely, supporters of the Ethernet-Advanced Physical Layer (APL) organization have been working steadily for several years to bring Ethernet’s far higher speeds, more varied and voluminous data, and other IT-based benefits to inaccessible, harsh and hazardous settings (Figure 1). 

“More than intrinsic safety (IS), Ethernet-APL is all about speed,” says Arnold Offner, strategic marketing manager for process automation at Phoenix Contact. “For example, where it usually takes eight minutes to extract a measurement from a Coriolis flowmeter using HART protocol or three minutes with Foundation Fieldbus protocol, Ethernet-APL can do it in less than 10 seconds. 

While slower than regular Ethernet at 1 Gbps, Ethernet-APL runs at 10 Mbps, which is far quicker than protocols like Foundation Fieldbus or Profibus PA that operate at 31.25 kbps or HART that runs at just 1,200 bps.

Matt Smith, security engineer at system integrator E Tech Group, adds that, “Ethernet-APL’s development has been fueled by a unique set of economic and technical forces in the process automation industry. Key factors include harsh industrial environments, long-distance communication, deterministic communication, cost reduction and simplified installation, integration with existing Ethernet infrastructure, industry collaboration, and standardization efforts.” Headquartered in West Chester Twp., Ohio, E Tech is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association

Smith reports Ethernet-APL has several advantages over other networking technologies, particularly in process automation applications, though it also has some drawbacks and implementation requirements. “Ethernet-APL’s advantages include robustness and reliability, long-distance communications, deterministic communication, power over Ethernet (PoE), interoperability and compatibility. Its drawbacks include some bandwidth limits and initial implementation costs. Requirements for implementation include compatible devices and infrastructure, network planning and design, training and expertise, and compliance with regulations.”

Presence and power

Offner reports that Ethernet-APL switches employ one of the two power classes available for APL, namely Power Class A that runs at 540 milliwatts and Power Class B, which is almost double that amount. To ensure migration to Ethernet-APL, existing fieldbus Type A cabling can be used if it’s still robust.

“Regular Ethernet is OK for the office, where it’s hidden and distances usually aren’t very far. Furthermore, it’s unshielded, won’t last in harsh or corrosive environments, and its physical RJ45 connectors are not suited for reliable, in-the-field field connections,” says Offner. “This is why we keep plant-floor network links shielded with connectors that aren’t polarity dependent, and use screw connections or barriers blocks on field instruments.”

So, why not use regular Ethernet instead of Ethernet-APL? Though it runs at relatively low-power, Offner adds that regular Ethernet is still potentially risky in process applications, ambient conditions, or in mitigation strategies where intrinsic safety (IS) is needed. 

“Zone 1 is challenging for Ethernet-APL or any network because they must address the ignition curve in the IEC Ex standard,” explains Offner. “In the past, fieldbuses addressed this with Fieldbus Non-Incendive Concept (FNICO) and Fieldbus Intrinsic Safety Concept (FISCO) couplings, which allow the low-power spur to connect with the corresponding APL field device. Today, IS has proven to be less costly than other protective methods, so it was made part of Ethernet-APL and its communication paths.”

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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