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Sharp's new panel puts finer point on digital handwriting

TOKYO -- Sharp has developed a touch panel that can accurately pick up text written with a ballpoint pen. This sets the device apart from conventional ones that require a stylus with a wider tip.

     The new liquid crystal display panel has roughly four times the sensitivity of hitherto existing models, making it the world's top performer in that regard, according to Sharp. The Japanese electronics company plans to start domestic mass production of the device next spring and make it a mainstay product in its LCD business. 

     The secret is a specialized semiconductor that minimizes electromagnetic interference, known as "noise," that occurs when a panel is touched. With fingers, noise is not a big issue, since the tips cover a relatively wide area. Today's smartphones and tablets can also work with a stylus with a tip that measures 3mm to 5mm in diameter. But they cannot handle input from ballpoint pens and other fine-point writing instruments, since the noise throws them off.

     Sharp's new panel works with ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils with 1mm or even narrower tips.

     The company's current production lines can make the panel. Sharp aims to supply it to major Chinese smartphone makers starting next summer.


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