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Lenze Launches its Nupano Open Automation Platform for OEMs

Machine builders can use the Nupano cloud-based platform to create new machine related digital services and revenue streams through the ability to remotely and securely update and maintain equipment in the field.

Annekatrin Konermann, Lenze’s product manager of Nupano and Werner Paulin, head of new automation technology at Lenze.
Annekatrin Konermann, Lenze’s product manager of Nupano and Werner Paulin, head of new automation technology at Lenze.

At Lenze’s 75th anniversary celebration in Hameln, Germany, the company launched Nupano, its open automation platform, designed to help OEMs combine information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) in their equipment. Nupano is a cloud-based machine and app-management platform that supports the sharing of functions for equipment testing and validation, and provides access to publicly available apps as well to the OEM’s machine-specific apps through open IT standards, such as Linux with native Docker as container technology. This allows the handling of environment variables and volumes, and provides IP-based communication such as OPC UA, MQTT, TCP/IP, UDP, HTTP(S), etc. Any existing software that can be integrated into a Docker container run as a Nupano app without modification. This also applies if users want to access over 100,000 container images on Docker Hub or integrate open-source software from GitHub. Open-source software does not need to be customized to run on Nupano because the Nupano platform has no proprietary interfaces.

According to Lenze, Nupano apps are based on standardized programming languages (such as Java, Python, Go, TypeScript, C++, Rust or any other language which can be wrapped in the Container Technology), which eases the process of embedding them into equipment interfaces without the need for specific IT skills. For OEMs, Lenze says Nupano provides a single tool to keep machines operating efficiently in the field by enabling OEMs to continuously update them across thousands of versions. With this technology, OEMs can securely equip each machine individually with new app versions throughout its life cycle, while also ensuring that the OEM retains ownership of associated digital revenue streams.

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Nupano security measures are designed according to IEC 62443, which includes:

  • Two-factor-authentication
  • Encrypted communication and signed data exchange between the machine’s digital twin and the Nupano Runtime on an industrial PC
  • Secure pairing of the digital twin and the Nupano Runtime using a Public-Key-Infrastructure
  • Access control and user management are managed via the Nupano Cloud with no direct user access and user management on the Nupano Runtime on premise.
  • Apps are executed in containers on the Nupano Runtime

To bridge the IT and OT worlds, Nupano focuses on three main areas: simplifying access to IT technology, integrating IT services into the machine through transparent release management of software, and maintenance throughout the integrated lifecycle management of the installed base.

Because it is cloud-based, Nupano can be accessed from any device, including mobile devices like tablets, to manage both apps and machines. Each machine connected to Nupano has a digital twin in the cloud to protect the OEM’s projects. In other words, the equipment’s operating functions do not reside solely on the machines’ controllers. Nupano applications are transferred to an industrial PC on the machine via the digital twin. From there, the applications operate using Nupano Runtime.

Nupano Runtime is hardware-independent and runs on almost any industrial PC or PC with, as well as Windows or on IT servers. According to Lenze, customer feedback shows that machine builders want IT to be separated from OT. There are two main reasons for this: Firstly, separating the IT services from the OT (i.e. the PLC applications) allows the machine builder to scale from small to large PLCs while keeping the IT application independent. On the other hand, IT services can be added to existing machines on site in the so-called "brownfield." Examples here would be data extraction and analytics.

“The key to [OEM] success lies in leveraging the innovation potential of information technology at the machine and plant level because, in the future, differentiation from competition will mainly be achieved through digital services linked to the machines,” said Annekatrin Konermann, Lenze’s product manager of Nupano.

The benefit of using IT standards

By using IT standards, OEMs can work with any preferred IT service. “Nupano allows you to maintain ownership of these services,” said Werner Paulin, head of new automation technology at Lenze. “Currently, the competitive advantage of your machine is determined by its ability to control the process, to be precise, and to be fast. But in the future, IT services will contribute to that competitive advantage.”

“Every version of your IT services is handled with [Nupano’s] lifecycle management, which means you can control which version is released or which one is discontinued,' said Paulin.“Every version of your IT services is handled with [Nupano’s] lifecycle management, which means you can control which version is released or which one is discontinued," said Paulin.After developing custom IT services that fit a company’s needs, those services must be integrated into the machine, which requires working in parallel with various teams—IT service to develop app versions, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering to download and install them, and process engineering to feed back to IT service the performance of the apps.

Nupano can then update the hardware with new functionality through the installation of new or updated apps.

“On a machine, it is important to know which version is installed in order to update it,” said Paulin. “Every version of your IT services is handled with [Nupano’s] lifecycle management, which means you can control which version is released or which one is discontinued. When you want to update a machine, the transparent update service of Nupano allows you to specifically pick a machine, find out what it has installed, and update specific versions.”

Exisiting apps can be uploaded to the Nupano platform using the open IT standards. Applications can be tested together on the platform, and a release workflow and lifecycle maintenance strategy can be created for the customer’s entire machine inventory. Once an OEM’s applications are programmed using common standards, they can be tested and transferred to Nupano, which also provides access to more than 100,000 programs on Docker Hub. 

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