A beam of electrons is generated in the electron gun, located at the top of the column, which is pictured to the left. This beam is attracted through the anode, condensed by a condenser lens, and focused as a very fine point on the sample by the objective lens. The scan coils are energized (by varying the voltage produced by the scan generator) and create a magnetic field which deflects the beam back and forth in a controlled pattern. The varying voltage is also applied to the coils around the neck of the Cathode-ray tube (CRT) which produces a pattern of light deflected back and forth on the surface of the CRT. The pattern of deflection of the electron beam is the same as the pattern of deflection of the spot of light on the CRT.
The electron beam hits the sample, producing secondary electrons from the sample. These electrons are collected by a secondary detector or a backscatter detector, converted to a voltage, and amplified. The amplified voltage is applied to the grid of the CRT and causes the intensity of the spot of light to change. The image consists of thousands of spots of varying intensity on the face of a CRT that correspond to the topography of the sample.