Exploring the Drive Types: Manual, Rope and Motor

ShadeFX is an innovative and simple sun, rain and privacy solution. Fully customizable and at the heart of every project, our patented ‘single track’ technology ensures smooth operation and a perfect fit for any new or existing overhead structure.

As a first step to configuring your custom retractable solution, you need to determine which drive type best suits your project. There are three options available: manual, motor and rope.

Mechanically, all three drive types serve the same purpose, to draw the shade along the track. However, there are variables to consider when determining the optimal solution. Factors such as structure design, obstacles and of course budget, will dictate the winner.

It’s important to note, no matter the drive type selected, the ease of operation remains. So, which one is best for your project?

First, let’s quickly cover the ‘single track’ technology. The track houses a series of carriers which attach to the wings, holding the fabric in place. Straddling the track, the wings run perpendicular along its length.

As the lead carrier travels the length of the track, the fabric panel extends engaging the next carrier to follow through. Depending on how far you wish to extend the canopy, each carrier will continue to deploy the next panel.


Now that we’ve established the fundamentals on how the system works, let’s review the drive types.

Manual Drive

ShadeFX’s most cost-effective option uses a detachable hand crank. To unlock the lead carrier, turn the handle counterclockwise and glide it across the track to your desired position. Then, turn the handle clockwise, locking the canopy in place. Remove the handle and tuck it away somewhere safe.

The manual drive is most common for small residential applications. For example, traditional garden pergolas or an open box frame with a clear pathway below to walk the entire length of the track.

In a case where the structure is a little higher than 9’, the standard hand crank (55”) can be substituted for an extended model (72”). If these cranks aren’t long enough to reach the canopy, or there is interference along the track path, the motor drive may be a suitable alternative.

Motor Drive

A popular option for large residential and commercial projects is the motorized canopy. Homeowners and businesses can extend and retract the shade at the push of a button, flick of a switch, or via a handy smartphone app. Supplied by Somfy, the motor canopy is made up of a drive belt, bearings, pulleys and a transmission for ultra-durable operation.

This option is great for taller structures and spaces with interference along the track path. Weight is also a factor with some shades exceeding 150lbs, depending on size, fabric and number of wings. Larger and heavier canopies are operated effortlessly using the motor option without relying on hulk power.

An added bonus, projects with multiple canopies can choose to have all shades open and close in unison with a wall switch, or independent of each other. For those who routinely operate the canopies on schedule, they can opt to automatically extend or retract the shades on a timer.

After all, having an innovative product that is automatic and motorized is extremely impressive. It adds a definite wow factor to any outdoor space.

Rope Drive

An option between the manual and motorized is comparable to a pulley system. The simple application moves the canopy by pulling on a rope loop, located on one of the structure’s post or wall. Lock the canopy in place anywhere along the track by fitting the rope into the retaining cleat.

The rope drive is a great alternative for spaces that would like the motorized version, but are looking for a budget-friendly option where the manual drive can’t apply. Not to mention, it’s also a popular eco-friendly option for those looking to maintain their green lifestyle.

If you’re still unsure which is best for you, we can help you decide. Contact us today.

Retractable Solutions for Outdoor Spaces

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