An electron beam system is based on a plasma generator in a plasma ion source with an accelerator column. The electrons are extracted from a plasma cathode in a plasma ion source, e.g. a multicusp plasma ion source. The beam can be scanned in both the x and y directions, and the system can be operated with multiple beamlets. A compact focused ion or electron beam system has a plasma ion source and an all-electrostatic beam acceleration and focusing column. The ion source is a small chamber with the plasma produced by radio-frequency (RF) induction discharge. The RF antenna is wound outside the chamber and connected to an RF supply. Ions or electrons can be extracted from the source. A multi-beam system has several sources of different species and an electron beam source.