Industrial revolution 4.0 has already set in, and industrial automation is a profound part of it. One of the crucial aspects of implementing a successful automation ecosystem in any industry is seamless communication between devices. For a long time, the traditional field buses like PROFIBUS, HART, FF, Modbus and a few others have been the been the standard communication solution for field layer connectivity.

However, with the ubiquity of Ethernet in the layers above sensors/PLCs and to take advantage of the IT tools and technologies in the OT layer, Ethernet is increasingly being looked as a communication bus in the field layer also. this has led to the idea of the Ethernet Advanced Physical layer (APL).

What is APL (Advanced Physical Layer)?

Ethernet-APL is a subset of the widely used Ethernet standard and it is describes the physical layer of the Ethernet communication specially designed for industrial engineering services. With high communication speeds over long distances and a single, twisted-pair cable for power and communication signal supply, this layer proves to be a robust solution for a better bandwidth communications link between field-level devices and control systems in process automation applications. In simple terms, Ethernet-APL is the upgraded link between Ethernet communication and instrumentation.

Role of APL in Industrial Automation

Ever since BASF, a German chemical company and the largest chemical producer in the world successfully tested Ethernet APL for the first time in 2019, many companies have successfully implemented the same in various IIoT networks. In February 2020, ABB’s trials proved that Ethernet APL effectively eliminates gateways and protocol conversions at various industrial network levels.

Ethernet-APL makes infrastructure deployment a seamless process as the devices connected over it share the same advanced physical layer. This also indicates that it enables devices in the industrial network to be connected at any time, irrespective of where they are placed in the factory or processing plant.

There are numerous reasons why industries willing to integrate IIoT must consider Ethernet-APL. We have discussed them in the next sections.

Benefits of Ethernet-APL

Ethernet-APL enables seamless integration of various processes and creates effective communication between the control and plant field devices for long distances process variables, secondary parameters, and asset health feedback and seamlessly communicating them over long distances.

Some of the major benefits of incorporating Ethernet APL in industrial automation applications are:

Improved Plant Availability

In addition to pure process values, modern field devices provide valuable additional data. With Ethernet-APL, plant operators can make the most of the devices in real-time, centrally monitor their components’ status, and identify maintenance requirements early on. This avoids unplanned downtime and increases plant availability significantly.

Cost-Effective Plant Optimization

Ethernet-APL supports the trunk-and-spur technology established in the process industry and is applicable to any industrial Ethernet protocol such as EtherNet/IP, HART-IP, and PROFINET. This simplifies integration for planners, plant designers, and plant operators since existing installations and infrastructures can still be used and investments are protected.

Adds Flexibility to the Plant

IEEE and IEC standards layout communication protocol, testing, and certification of products to implement Ethernet-APL into any plant automated systems in any part of the world. This way, in an industrial environment, devices from different manufacturers, irrespective of their state of origin, can have interoperable communication within the working ecosystem.

Coherent Communication at all levels

Ethernet-APL allows a common communication infrastructure for all levels of process management. This is because field devices can be easily connected to the higher-level system. The high transfer speed of 10Mbit/s and the full-duplex infrastructure make it suitable for data transmission over a length of approximately 1000 m.

APL – For IIoT Applications

The Industrial Internet of Things is undoubtedly an integral part of the industrial automation workspace. Therefore, the high-speed, industrial Ethernet-based Ethernet-APL is touted as the future of industrial communication systems. Many of the leading communication protocol associations like the OPC Foundation, ODVA, PROFIBUS, and PROFINET International are in the process of supporting APL, which makes it compatible with any existing processing system.

It supports 2-WISE (2-wire intrinsically safe Ethernet) and therefore eliminates the need for numerous calculations, which makes it simpler to verify the intrinsic safety of devices within the Ethernet-APL automation network.

Ethernet-APL comes as a blessing for the manufacturing and process industry in particular, as they lacked a standard network capable of high-speed transfer of data within field devices irrespective of their implementation level in the Industry 4.0 architecture.

How APL is Serving the Special Requirements of Process Industries

Ethernet-APL is specially crafted for process industries. Since these industries involve works at hazardous and explosive areas, deployment of industrial Ethernet seemed like a far thought for quite long. However, with the introduction of an advanced physical layer into the Ethernet, 2-WISE became a reality.

The 2-WISE infrastructure makes it safe to be deployed in such hazardous areas. This improved the overall plant availability and brought remote access to many devices in the process industry 4.0.

Conclusion

Advanced Physical Layer or APL has brought in a new ray of hope for effective adoption and implementation of IIoT in the industries. Utthunga’s innovation-driven team is ready to support you in your APL plans. Get in touch with us and get the best industrial engineering services that elevate the efficiency of your plant and plant assets for increased ROI.


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