Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) has been used in plasmas for over 20 years and in plasma processing for about 10 years. Complexity and expense of this non-invasive diagnostic have limited it to laboratories although diode lasers offer hope for real-time processing metrology. LIF offers time- and space-resolved ion distribution functions, allowing study of plasma thermodynamics and transport and calibration of energy analyzers and mass flow probes. LIF was applied to an RF ion beam source (Veeco/Ion Tech). Ion distributions are compared with energy analyzer results and manufacturer's estimates. LIF distributions show narrower beam velocity spread, and better resolution, than energy analyzers. Beam ion energy can be measured rather than relying on manufacturer's estimate. Spatial resolution of LIF has permitted measurement of multidimensional ion velocity distributions in the bulk, and entering the sheath, near a conducting boundary wall. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.