Japan's Asahi Glass will soon begin producing glass for touch panels on smartphones and tablet PCs that is thinner than sheets from competitors. The glass could contribute to making smartphones and tablet PCs thinner and lighter.The new substrate glass is 0.28 millimeters thick, which makes it 15 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than the slimmest alternatives available now commercially, Asahi Glass said on Thursday.The substrate is the piece of glass on which a touch panel is built. It is positioned above the LCD screen and below the front cover glass on smartphones and tablets. The thinner glass will shave 0.05 millimeters off the thinnest existing touchscreen substrates, the company said. It doesn't sound like much, but smartphone makers are continually looking for components that can help reduce the size and weight of their products.Mass production will start before the end of the month, the company said. Asahi Glass expects annual sales of the new glass to top \u00a510 billion (US$1.22 billion) in 2013.It's unclear when consumers will start to see products containing the thin substrates, Oda said.Users of tablet PCs, smartphones and other handhelds generally welcome any device that is thinner and lighter than what's out there today, said Annabelle Hsu , a display panel analyst with IDC in Taipei. The thinner substrate should not add to phone or tablet prices, she said.